This is part one of a two part series inspired by the fish we saw at the Shedd. All of these fish and amphibians live in the Amazon.
Piranhas are omnivorous nibblers. They eat meat, but they also eat fruits and vegetables. They will not strip their prey in seconds. It's very rare for people to be killed by piranhas, but they may taste your toes if you're not careful.
Growing over six feet long, the Arapaima is the largest fish in the Amazon. It eats other fish and occasionally small mammals that get too close to the shoreline. Even more remarkable, arapaima breathe with a lung, useful for low-water seasons when they live in swamps.
Neon tetra are native to the Amazon, and they are also common aquarium fish. They will nibble plants and tiny aquatic creatures, but they are essentially the bottom of the food chain. They are the bunny rabbits of the Amazon, breeding to stay alive.
Arowana come in a variety of colors, but the ones in the Amazon are an iridescent mother of pearl. They kill smaller fish by pulverizing them against the roofs of their mouths with their boney tongue. They have been known to leap six feet from the water to capture birds!
Poisonous frogs are really tiny. The size of my thumbnail tiny. There are bugs in the Amazon bigger than these guys. Not all 175 species of poison dart frogs are deadly to humans. It is thought that they create the poison from something they eat in the wild (as yet unidentified) because after a few weeks in captivity, the frogs lose their toxicity. Both the Yellow Banded Dart Frog and the Blue Poison Dart Frog are popular exotic aquarium pets.
If you would like to learn more about or donate to wildlife conservation in the Amazon, Amazon Conservation Fund is a good place to start.