By: Nathan Gibson…….
The Amazon River and its surrounding rainforest are home to some of the most diverse lifeforms on Earth. As one of the longest rivers in the world, the Amazon offers a rich habitat for a wide range of creatures. Some are exquisitely beautiful, while others are undeniably creepy. Many Amazonian species have evolved in ways that make them completely terrifying.
These weird Amazonian animals can be scary for all kinds of reasons. Some look as if they have crawled straight out of a nightmare, such as the Amazonian giant centipede. Others, like the black caiman, are dangerous predators capable of maiming anything they encounter. Then there are the animals that look harmless, but are actually killing machines that should be avoided at all costs. That giant otter may look adorable, but it’s as fierce as any sharp-toothed carnivore.
Wondering what animals live in the Amazon? The answers may spook you. Animals wreak havoc all over the globe, but those unique to the Amazon River are especially scary. Check out the Amazon’s most fascinating and downright alarming animals. And when you’ve scared yourself straight, check out our guide on how to survive in the Amazon rainforest, if you ever get lost there.
Tyrant King Leeches
The tyrant king leech may only be three inches long, but it’s plenty terrifying. It uses its huge teeth to saw into flesh to create holes for it to feed. Worse yet, it seems to intentionally aim for mammals’ orifices, including the eyes, genitalia, and rectum.
Once inside its prey’s body, the leech can survive and feed for weeks.
Amazonian Giant Centipedes
The Amazonian giant centipede is one of the largest insects, which directly correlates to its creepy factor: an adult giant centipede can measure up to a foot long. This gargantuan critter can be found scurrying around the forest floor near the Amazon River, where it hunts lizards, amphibians, and small mammals living near the water.
Besides its nightmare-inducing size, it can also inject venom into its victims using sharp claws on its head.
Green anacondas live throughout South America. They primarily reside in swamps, marshes, and rivers; this makes the Amazon the ideal home for them. These snakes are gigantic: they can reach up to 30 feet in length and weigh an amazing 550 pounds.
These anacondas don’t pose much of a threat on land; they’re too heavy and cumbersome to have the ability to move quickly. When they are in water, however, it’s a completely different story. They can move with devastating speed, and special openings on the very top of their heads allow them to lie almost completely submerged in water. Once they locate and ambush their prey, these anacondas use their immense size and deadly strength to constrict a victim. Anacondas’ meals aren’t small, either – they’ve been known to take down jaguars.
The candiru is a type of parasitic fish that lives in the basins of the Amazon River. It’s small, typically just a few millimeters in length. What makes it so frightening is the way it feeds. It inserts itself into the gills of a much larger fish, then digs in.
This shouldn’t concern you – except for the story about candirus tending to insert themselves in swimmers’ bodily orifices. There’s only one documented case of this happening, but it’s the stuff of nightmares nonetheless.
Capable of growing up to 20 feet in length, the black caiman is one of the deadliest animals to call the Amazon River home. The dark coloring of its hide provides perfect camouflage for its nighttime hunts, allowing it to ambush unsuspecting prey in the water.
It strikes terror into local human populations, too, thanks to its aggressive nature. Black caimans have been known to attack people who live or work on the riverbanks.
Yes, there are sharks in the Amazon River. The bull shark has been found up to 2,500 miles up the river; it makes its way in from Lake Nicaragua. It’s one of the most aggressive sharks in existence, and its love of shallow water makes it a hazard for anyone taking a dip.
If that isn’t scary enough, it can also grow to be 11 feet long.
Many people are terrified of house spiders. Imagine how they’d feel about an arachnid that’s the size of a puppy. This would be the goliath birdeater, the heaviest tarantula in the world. Reaching up to five inches in body length and weighing up to six ounces, it dwarfs almost every other spider.
The spider is found mostly in the swamps and marshes around the Amazon River, where it burrows underground and ventures out at night to nab prey. Though it’s not dangerous to humans, it will shed its prickly hairs when approached. These can cause irritation that lasts for days.
Poison Dart Frogs
Numerous types of poison dart frogs inhabit tropical forests in South America; several make their home in and around the Amazon River. They’re harmless at first glance, and their vivid colors are quite lovely. But these are among the deadliest creatures on the planet. Their bright hues act as a warning: a potent toxin seeps from their skin.
A single poison dart frog can kill up to 10 adult humans with a simple touch.
Though it’s commonly known as the electric eel, this fearsome creature is actually a knifefish. Due to its distinctive physiology, it is capable of producing electricity from its organs. This electric shock can reach intensities of up to 600 volts for several milliseconds. While this can’t kill you, it can deliver as much pain as a stun gun and cause a numbing sensation.
And this eel can grow up to eight feet long. It’s definitely not an animal you would want to come across.
Piranhas arguably have the worst reputation of any fish on Earth. These frenzied killers are capable of tearing flesh off of any animal in mere minutes. But most of the time, they’re shy creatures that lurk in the basins of the Amazon River, where they feed mostly on other fish and insects.
Still, there’s no denying their scary image and needle-sharp teeth.
The payara is known as the vampire fish, and for good reason: it has a huge mouth studded with fangs that can reach up to six inches long. Though there is some debate about the maximum size this fish can reach, researchers believe they can grow to almost four feet in length.
Don’t worry, though – they pose no threat to humans. Those fangs are exclusively used to impale smaller fish.
The arapaima gigas is a massive fish that lives within the basins of the Amazon River and neighboring swamps and lakes. As one of the biggest fish in the world, it can reach lengths of up to nine feet long and weigh a staggering 440 pounds. But perhaps the creepiest thing about this fish is what it breathes: air.
Since the fish spends so much time near the water’s surface, it has developed a taste for birds that get close to shore. Its exceptional strength and powerful jaws make taking down prey a breeze, and its tough, scaly armor protects it from almost any threat in the water.
The pacu is a type of fish closely related to the piranha, though it grows to a far greater size. But the real nightmares begin with its mouth. Its chompers bear an uncanny resemblance to human teeth. Those pearly whites are there for a reason: the fish is an omnivore, so it often chows down on tough food, including nuts.
Pacus aren’t necessarily aggressive, but their teeth can cause an uncomfortable amount of pain.
The giant otter is the largest member of its species in the world, and one of the biggest mammals in South America. It lives exclusively in the Amazon River and the surrounding waterways. While it may not look particularly threatening, this apex predator is one of the most efficient killers in the rainforest.
Believe it or not, this otter is capable of killing and eating anacondas and caimans. Groups of giant otters sometimes work as a team to latch onto the back of a caiman’s neck, an advantageous spot where predators can’t be reached by the caiman’s sharp teeth. Then they just harass the caiman until it wears itself out from lactic acid buildup, allowing the otters to drag it onto the shore and eat it alive.
Mata Mata Turtles
The mata mata turtle spends almost its entire life in the water, only emerging on occasion to lay eggs. It’s the sole surviving member of its genus, with an appearance that more closely resembles a dinosaur than a modern turtle. It can survive for up to 75 years and reach up to two feet in length.
So what makes this turtle scary? It has a spooky way of eating: it creates a vacuum in its mouth that sucks in passing fish.