Planet Earth

5 Dangerous Animals That Call The Amazon Rainforest Home

From massive anacondas to tiny frogs, these are some of the most dangerous animals in the Amazon.

By Allison FuttermanSep 1, 2022 4:00 PM
Green Anaconda
(Credit:Mark_Kostich/Shutterstock)

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The Amazon rainforest encompasses an enormous area spanning eight South American countries. Considered one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, it's home to over 3 million animal and plant life species. Included among them are dangerous animals you'll want to avoid. Here is a look at five dangerous rainforest animals.   

1. Electric Eel

(Credit:Stacey Newman/Shutterstock)

There are over 800 species in the order Anguilliformes, otherwise known as "true eels." However, the electric eel isn't one of them. True eels live primarily in saltwater, while electric eels live in freshwater. It's actually a type of knife fish. They can release an electrical charge of up to 860 volts, making them the premier natural generator of electricity in nature.

The unique way they create electricity is with cells called electrocytes, capable of producing both low and high-voltage charges. While the shock from an electric eel may not be enough to kill a person, a shock can incapacitate a person long enough that they may drown. Death by electric eels has been reported, so it's best to stay out of their habitat. 


More About Electric Eels: This New Species of Electric Eel Delivers the Strongest Shock Yet


 2. Green Anaconda

(Credit:Mark_Kostich/Shutterstock)

Reaching lengths of 30 feet, the green anaconda is the largest snake — and one of the heaviest — in the world. Although not venomous, their size and constriction force make them an apex predator. They prey on everything from birds and small mammals to large animals such as deer, caimans, capybaras and even jaguars. Using their powerful muscles, green anacondas squeeze and suffocate their prey. 

The females, typically larger than the males, have been known to cannibalize the smaller males. These giant snakes mate every other year — and unlike many snakes which lay eggs, anacondas give birth to live young. The females usually have 20-40 offspring.

Here's a video of a green anaconda consuming a capybara. 


More Facts About Green Anacondas:

  • It can weigh up to 200 pounds.

  • It has six rows of teeth.


3. Jaguar

(Credit:L-N/Shutterstock)

 The name jaguar comes from the indigenous word "yaguar," which means "he who kills with one leap." Although only about two pounds when they are born, they grow to an average of 120 pounds. Though the largest ever recorded at more than 300 pounds. Often mistaken for leopards, the key difference is their spots — called rosettes. The rosettes on a jaguar have smaller dots in the middle, while those of a leopard doesn't.

Jaguars are vigorous climbers and swimmers. They can run 50 miles per hour on land and jump 10 feet high. Unlike other big cats that kill their prey by biting the neck to cause suffocation, the jaguar bites into the skull, crushing fragments into the brain. Using their camouflage coat and hunting techniques, jaguars are keen predators. Their diet consists of birds, fish, small mammals, rodents and even caiman. 


More About Jaguars: A Beautiful Look at a Hostile Planet


4. Piranha

(Credit:Podolnaya Elena/Shutterstock)

Currently, more than 20 piranha species can be found in the Amazon river, with up to 60 species in the lakes and rivers of South America. Modern-day piranhas date back about 1.8 million years, while there is fossil evidence of their ancestors from 25 million years ago. Despite their Hollywood stereotype, they don't usually pose a significant risk to humans. If food is in short supply and water levels are low, they may attack swimmers — but this doesn't typically result in fatalities.

The upper and lower teeth of the piranha interlock, making them efficient at slicing through a food source (meat, bone or vegetation). Interestingly, several times throughout their lives, they lose a section of upper and lower teeth simultaneously and replace it with a new set grown in their jaws.


More Facts About Piranhas

  • Some species are vegetarians.

  • Some make a barking noise when caught by anglers. 


5. Poison Dart Frog

(Credit:Chilo Segura/Shutterstock)

A variety of vibrant, bright poison dart frogs are found on the rainforest floor. Indigenous peoples use the frogs' poison on the tip of their hunting darts, giving them their name. Only a couple of inches long, these animals are mighty in their defenses.

They naturally secrete poison through glands that cover their skin. And although the amount of venom varies depending on the species, the golden poison dart frog has enough toxic venom to kill ten men. These amphibians are impressive parents, carrying their tadpoles on their backs to transport them to a water source. 


More Facts About Poison Dart Frogs:

  • It's believed that some poison dart frogs get their poison from their diet. 

  • The more colorful, the more toxic.

  • Some toxins are used in medicine. 


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