BIG in the Wild: Inside the Amazon

It's home to the world's most vast variety of living creatures with the most birds, freshwater fish and butterflies, yet, countless things remain undiscovered in the Amazon rain forest.

At 1.4 billion acres, the Amazon, which is in Brazil, is the biggest rain forest in size and diversity. Its area matches the size of the continental United States.

The region, which spreads across nine countries and is the source of half of all rain forest land on the planet, also holds the biggest river in the world by volume, the Amazon River. The giant pipeline is 4,000 miles long.


And to officially be called a rain forest, it must get 80 inches of precipitation annually.

The Amazon rain forest's thick shrubbery, grassy marshes and rainbow-colored wildlife were created at least 55 million years ago, according to scientists.

It's a Diverse Life

The Amazon rain forest hosts the biggest number of plant and animal species around the globe. In fact, it holds three-quarters of all of Earth's known living things.

One-fifth of all birds live in the area, including the scarlet macaw, which is known as the most beautiful fowl on Earth.

And it's not just animals of the sky that make their homes here. The jaguar and squirrel monkey are among the 300 species of mammals that call the region home.

Then there are the insects — an estimated 2.5 million species of them — that live in the Amazon. As astounding as that number may seem, it's even bigger when you realize a species can be a label for thousands of different kinds of creatures.

Ants are a great example. There are several different kinds of ants — up to 14,000. And a single bush in the rain forest may hold more ant species than the entire British Isles.

Plant Life

The rain forest also has plenty of plant life. The Amazon has the biggest diversity of the world's plant life with more than 400,000 species registered. That doesn't include the countless more waiting to be discovered.

Some experts believe one square mile of the rain forest may hold 50,000 types of trees and 100,000 different kinds of plants.

With that much vegetation, it makes the rain forest the lungs of Earth. Massive tree canopies suck in carbon dioxide by the ton and put out life-giving oxygen.

In fact, about 10 percent of Earth's oxygen comes from the rain forest's leaves. The leaves, whose job includes soaking up as much rain and sun as possible, also make up the rain forest's canopy, which is a dense collection of tree tops.

The canopy is so think that it forms a natural ceiling over the forest and experts estimate 90 percent of the forest's species live in the canopy.

The Mighty Amazon

Part of what makes the region so amazing is its extensive river. In some places, the Amazon River is so wide that you can't even see the other side.

During the dry season, it is a little less than seven miles across at its widest point, but during the rainy season that grows to nearly 25 miles across.

All the rainwater floods the river and makes trees, which are 10 to 20 feet high, seem like bushes as the water submerges them.

The water holds more than 3,000 species of fish and marine life. This is where the piranha and the anaconda make their sanctuaries.

Saving the Amazon

With all of its amazing sites and massive potential, today, the Amazon rain forest is fighting an important battle against destruction and devastation.

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