Our Beautiful World

Iguacu National Park

Iguassu falls from the Brazilian side
Photo: Charlesjsharp

Down on the border between two of the biggest nations in South America,
you will find one of the worlds greatest Waterfalls, and one of the
biggest hydroelectric plant in the world.
Where are we? South in Brazil, North in Argentine, not far away from
Paraguay, in Iguacu National Park at the river Iguazu

But lets start from the beginning. Just South of Sao Paulo in Brazil, where the river Iguazu originates. It is called Rio Iguada in Brazil, River Iguazú in Argentine and also River Iguassu. The river is 1,320 kilometres long, with a drainage basin of 62,000 square kilometres.

Its name means “Big Water” and comes from the aboriginal Guarani, who admired the huge mass of water which throws itself over the edge
to form the Falls of the same name. It comes from the coastal mountains of the Brazilian state of Paraná, near the city of Curitiba and the mountain
Pico Paraná at 1.982 m asl. and starts its journey from about 900m asl.

Iguaçu River, south of Curitiba
Photo: Mathieu Bertrand Struck

Pico Paraná
Photo: Sergio Luiz Furtado da Rosa

Strangely the river begins runnings slightly Southwestward, allthough the distance to the Atlantic Ocean is only about 50 km, for shortly
thereafter gets more water from River Negro and then turns westward all the way to Alto Paranã, where Argentine, Paraguay and Brazil
meet at Puerto Iguazu, and where the River Iguazu joins with river Paraná, which then - under the name Paraná, goes all the way
down to Buenos Aires. The water from both rivers do not mix immediately, and for a long time you can watch the clear green water of the Iguazu
create whirlpools within the dark reddish water from the Paraná before they are finally absorbed by the former. Where the rivers converge, you can also see the 3 frontiers of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

And that is where it happens. Just before it comes to the larger river Paraná, we come to the great waterfalls:

Panorama of the Iguazu waterfalls from Brazil
Photo: Martin St-Amant

If you have the time, click on the picture, and you will get a 10 Mb picture, almost 10 times larger than this one. A marvellous sight!

The water falls here almost 70 m down, the total length of the wide falls are 2.700m, or 2.7 kilometers, and 800 m of this is in Brazil.
There are alltogether around 275 greater or smaller waterfalls. In these humid sorroundings the trees have no difficulties finding a way to survive,
and there are at least 60 different orchid species around. In total, there are some 2,000 vascular plant species present

The fauna is rich. So far there have been found at least 68 species of mammals, 422 birds, over 40 reptiles, 18 amphibians, and 250 butterfly species.
We are, of course, unable to present all of them here, but let's give you a taste of it:

Black Capuchin, Sapajus nigritus
Photo: José Reynaldo da Fonseca

A Southern Tamandua , Tamandua tetradactyla
Photo: http://www.birdphotos.com

The black capuchin, Sapajus nigritus, also known as the black-horned capuchin, is a capuchin monkey from the Atlantic Forest in south-eastern
Brazil and far north-eastern Argentina. Historically, it was included as a subspecies of the Tufted Capuchin.

Capuchins are black, brown, buff or whitish, but their exact color and pattern depends on the species involved. They reach a length of 30 to 56 cm,
with tails that are just as long as the body.

Like most New World monkeys, capuchins are diurnal and arboreal. With the exception of a midday nap, they spend their entire day searching for
food. At night they sleep in the trees, wedged between branches. They are undemanding regarding their habitat and can thus be found in many differing
areas. Potential predators include jaguars, cougars, jaguarundis, coyotes, tayras, snakes, crocodiles, and raptors, although there has only been one
published observation of a predator taking a capuchin in the wild. The main predator of the tufted capuchin is the Harpy Eagle, which has been seen
bringing several capuchins back to its nest.

The diet of the capuchins is more varied than other monkeys in the family Cebidae. They are omnivores, eating not only fruits, nuts, seeds, and buds,
but also insects, spiders, birds' eggs, and small vertebrates. Capuchins living near water will also eat crabs and shellfish by cracking their shells with

The southern tamandua, Tamandua tetradactyla, also called a collared anteater, or lesser anteater, is a species of anteater from South America.
It is a solitary animal, found in many habitats from mature to highly disturbed secondary forests and arid savannas. It feeds on ants, termites and bees.
It has very strong foreclaws that can be used to break insect nests or to defend itself.

Anteaters, also known as antbears, are the four mammal species of the suborder Vermilingua (meaning "worm tongue") commonly known for eating
ants and termites.Together with the sloths, they compose the order Pilosa. The name "anteater" is also colloquially applied to the unrelated aardvark, numbat, echidnas, and pangolins.

Extant species include the giant anteater Myrmecophaga tridactyla, about 1.8 mlong including the tail; the silky anteater, Cyclopes didactylus,
about 35 cm long; the southern tamandua or collared anteater, Tamandua tetradactyla, about 1.2 m long; and the northern tamandua Tamandua mexicana of similar dimensions.

The tamandua is mainly nocturnal but is occasionally active during the day. They nest in hollow tree trunks or in the burrows of other animals,
such as armadillos. They are solitary, occupying home ranges that average from 100 to 375 hectares, depending on the local environment.

Southern tamanduas eat ants and termites in roughly equal proportions, although they may also eat a small quantity of fruit. They locate their food by
scent, and prey on a wide range of species, including army ants, carpenter ants, and Nasutitermes. They avoid eating ants that are armed with strong
chemical defenses, such as leaf-eating ants. Tamanduas are also thought] to eat honey and bees and, in captivity, have been known to eat fruit and
meat as well. Anteaters extract their prey by using their extremely strong forelimbs to rip open nests and their elongated snouts and rounded tongues
(up to 40 centimetres in length) to lick up the insects.

Although it has the same diet as the giant anteater, both animals are able to live alongside one another, perhaps because the southern tamandua is able
to reach nests in trees, while its larger cousin cannot.

From a Panorama of the Iguazu waterfalls from Brazil
Photo: Martin St-Amant

Bush dog, Speothos venaticus

A young Ring Tailed Coati, Nasua nasua

The bush dog, Speothos venaticus, is a canid found in Central and South America, including Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru ,
Ecuador, the Guianas, Paraguay, northeast Argentina (Misiones province) and Brazil (from the Amazon rainforest to the state of Amazonas).
In spite of its extensive range, it is very rare in most areas except in Suriname.

The bush dog has soft long brownish-tan fur, with a lighter reddish tinge on the head, neck and back and a bushy tail, while the underside is dark,
sometimes with a lighter throat patch. Adults typically have 55–75 cm of head and body, plus 13 cm of tail, a shoulder height of 20–30 cm
and weigh 5–8 kg. Legs and snout are short relative to body length: the typical height is only 25–30 cm.

ARKive video - Bush dog pack hunting freshwater turtle

Bush dog pack hunting freshwater turtle
BBC Natural History Unit

Audio: Master Tracks, Granada Wild,
Natural FX, The British Library Sound Archive
BBC Natural History Sound Library

It is a carnivore and hunts during the day, preferably in wet savannahs and tropical and equatorial forests. Its typical prey are the paca, Cuniculus paca, agouti, and capybaras, all large rodents. Although it can hunt alone, the bush dog is usually found in small packs. The dogs can bring down much larger
prey, including peccaries, rhea, even a 250 kg tapir hunted by a pack of 6 dogs. When hunting paca, part of the pack chases it on land, and part wait
for it in the water (where it often retreats). The bush dog appears to be the most gregarious of the South American canid species. Bush dogs have skin
growing between their toes, which allow them to swim more efficiently. It uses hollow logs and cavities (e.g. armadillo burrows) for shelter. Pack-mates
keep in contact with frequent whines, perhaps because visibility is poor in the undergrowth where the animal typically hunts. During the consumption of
large prey, parents position themselves at the ends of the animal, facilitating the disembowelment of the prey by pups.

The South American coati, Nasua nasua, or ring-tailed coati, Nasua nasua, is a species of coati from South America. In Brazilian Portuguese it is
known as quati. It is native to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela.
It is the southern replacement of its very similar cousin, the White-nosed Coati. Weight in this species is 3.4–6 kg and total length is about 1 m,
half of that being its tail.

South American coatis are diurnal animals, and they live both on the ground and in trees. They typically live in the forest. They are omnivorous and
primarily eat fruit, invertebrates, other small animals and bird's eggs. Coatis search for fruit in trees high in the canopy, and use their snouts to poke
through crevices to find animal prey on the ground. They also search for animal prey by turning over rocks on the ground or ripping open logs with
their claws.

ARKive video - South American coati - overview

South American coati - overview
BBC Natural History Unit

Females generally live in large groups, called bands, consisting of 15 to 30 animals. Males, on the other hand, are usually solitary. Solitary males were
originally considered a separate species due to the different social habits and were called "coatimundis", a term still sometimes used today.
Neither bands of females nor solitary males defend a unique territory, and territories therefore overlap.

Group members produce soft whining sounds, but alarm calls are different, consisting of loud woofs and clicks. When an alarm call is sounded,
the coatis typically climb trees, and then drop down to the ground and disperse. Coatis typically sleep in the trees. Predators of the South American
coati include foxes, jaguars, jaguarundis, domestic dogs, and people.

Also you can find Cebus red howler monkeys, Alouatta guariba, a tree-climbing armadillo, the greater naked-tailed armadillo, Cabassous tatouay,
giant anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla, crab-eating raccoon, Procyon cancrivorus, capybara, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, giant otter,
Pteronura brasiliensis, La Plata otter, Lutra platensis, neotropical otter, lontra longicaudis, jaguar, Panthera onca, ocelot, Leopardus pardalis,
tiger cat, Leopardus tigrina, jaguarundi, Puma yagouaroundi, white-lipped peccary, Tayassu pecari and lowland tapir, Tapirus terrestris.

Black-fronted Piping Guan,
Pipile jacutinga
Vinaceous-breasted Amazon,
Amazona vinacea
Chad Bordes
Brazilian Merganser,
Mergus octosetaceus

The Black-fronted Piping Guan, Pipile jacutinga, is a bird in the chachalaca, guan and curassow family Cracidae. This species occurs in Atlantic
Forests in south-eastern Brazil and adjacent Argentina and Paraguay. It has become quite rare in recent decades due to hunting and habitat destruction.

It is a large bird, some 63–74 cm in length, and similar in general appearance to a slim turkey with thin neck and small head. Pipile jacutinga is mainly
black with a bluish gloss; it has a conspicuous white wing patch bearing 3 neat rows of tiny black dots. The large crest is whitish, and it has a red throat
wattle with a dark blue patch at the front. Its naked whitish eye-ring and black-feathered face and forehead are unique in its genus. The legs and feet
are red.

No other piping guan is found in its range, though the Gray's Piping Guan (Pipile cumanensis grayi) approaches it in Paraguay. This bird has a pale
bluish pendulous wattle, a smaller wing patch, and an entirely naked white face and white forehead.

The Vinaceous-breasted Amazon, Amazona vinacea, is a species of parrot in the Psittacidae family. It is found in Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.
Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical moist montane forests, and plantations. It is threatened by
habitat loss. The Vinaceous-breasted Amazon is colourful parrot 30 cm long. It is mostly green, with a red forehead, bluish nape, and a vinous-maroon breast.

Brazilian Merganser, Mergus octosetaceus is a duck in the typical merganser genus. It is one of the six most threatened waterfowl in the world
with possibly fewer than 250 birds in the wild and none kept in captivity. The origin of its name is from its long, sharp-edged beak that has a great
number of teeth-looking edges.

This merganser is a dark, slender duck with a shiny dark-green hood with a long crest, which is usually shorter and more worn-looking in females.
Upperparts are dark grey while the breast is light grey, getting paler toward the whitish belly, and a white wing patch is particularly noticeable in flight.
It has a long thin jagged black bill with red feet and legs. Although females are smaller with a shorter bill and crest, both sexes are alike in color.
The slender ducks range in size from 49 cm to 56 cm as an adult. Young Brazilian Mergansers are mainly black with white throat and breast.

The Brazilian Mergansers are generally silent birds, but may make barking calls in certain situations. Four calls have been recorded.
A harsh krack-krack acts as an alarm call emitted in flight. Males make a barking dog-like call, females make a harsh rrr-rrrr and the contact
call is a soft rak-rak-rak. Ducklings give a high pitched ik-ik-ik.

Info about animals and birds are from various Wikipedia-pages.

From a Panorama of the Iguazu waterfalls from Brazil
Photo: Martin St-Amant

Fasciated Tiger Heron, Tigrisoma fasciatum
Photo: gina (http://www.flickr.com/photos/g-na
Male Harpy Eagle, Harpia harpyja, Foz do Iguaçu

The Fasciated Tiger Heron, Tigrisoma fasciatum, is a species of heron in the Ardeidae family. It is native to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica,
Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela, and a vagrant in Nicaragua. Its natural habitat is rivers.

The Harpy Eagle, Harpia harpyja, sometimes known as the American Harpy Eagle, is a Neotropical species of eagle. It is the largest and most powerful raptor
found in the Americas, and among the largest extant species of eagles in the world. It usually inhabits tropical lowland rainforests in the upper (emergent) canopy layer.
Destruction of its natural habitat has seen it vanish from many parts of its former range, and it is almost extinct in Central America.

Harpy Eagle -- Camino del Oleoducto, Parque Nacional Soberania, Panama

The upper side of the Harpy Eagle is covered with slate black feathers, and the underside is mostly white, except for the feathered tarsi, which are
striped black. There is a black band across the chest up to the neck. The head is pale grey, and is crowned with a double crest. The plumage of male
and female is identical. The tarsus is up to 13 cm long.

Female Harpy Eagles typically weigh 6 to 9 kg. The male, in comparison , is much smaller and weighs only about 4 to 4.8 kg. The wings are relatively
short and stubby, the female wing length measuring 58.3–62.6 cm, and the male wing length 54.3–58 cm. Harpy Eagles are 89–105 cm long
and have a wingspan of 176 to 200 cm. It is sometimes cited as the largest eagle, however the Philippine Eagle is somewhat longer on average and the
Steller's Sea Eagle is slightly heavier on average. The wingspan of the Harpy Eagle is relatively small, an adaptation that increases maneuverability in
forested habitats and is shared by other raptors in similar habitats. The wingspan of the Harpy Eagle is surpassed by several large eagles who live in
more open habitats, such as those in the Haliaeetus and Aquila genera.

The Harpy Eagle is an actively hunting carnivore and is an apex predator, meaning that adults are at the top of a food chain and have no natural predators.
Its main prey are tree-dwelling mammals such as sloths, monkeys, coatis, porcupines, kinkajous, anteaters and opossums.

Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpy_Eagle

North American Opossum, Didelphis virginiana

North American Opossum, Didelphis virginiana, with winter coat.
Photo: Cody Pope

Poor me - when I read about the diet of the Harpy Eagle, I saw it used to take opossums up in the trees. I thought an opossum was a ground-animal,
and so I had to find out a little more. First thing I found was that an opossum is not just an opossum. No
, the Opossums, Didelphimorphia,
make up the largest order of marsupials in the Western Hemisphere, including 103 or more species in 19 genera.

So I had to find out what a marsupial was. Surprise. Of the 334 extant species 70% occur in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands, with the remaining
100 found in the Americas, primarily in South America, but with thirteen in Central America, and one in North America, north of Mexico.
This species include such animals as the Koala, and the Kangaroos.

The opossums are also commonly called possums, though that term technically refers to Australian fauna of the suborder Phalangeriformes. The Virginia
opossum was the first animal to be named an opossum; usage of the name was published in 1610. The word opossum comes from the Proto-Algonquian
aposoum, meaning "white dog" or "white beast/ animal".

Their unspecialized biology, flexible diet and reproductive strategy make them successful colonizers and survivors in diverse locations and conditions.
Didelphimorphs are small to medium-sized marsupials, with the largest just exceeding the size of a large house cat, and the smallest the size of a small
mouse. They tend to be semi-arboreal omnivores, although there are many exceptions. Most members of this taxon have long snouts, a narrow braincase,
and a prominent sagittal crest.

Didelphimorphs have a plantigrade stance (feet flat on the ground) and the hind feet have an opposable digit with no claw. Like some New World
monkeys, opossums have prehensile tails. Like all marsupials, the fur consists of awn hair only, and the females have a pouch. The tail and parts of the
feet bear scutes. The stomach is simple, with a small cecum.

ARKive video - Water opossum - overview

Water opossum, Chironectes minimus - overview
Video: ABC Library Sales, Melbourne, Australia
Audio: Master Tracks, BBC Natural History Unit, Granada Wild

Opossums have a remarkably robust immune system, and show partial or total immunity to the venom of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and other pit
vipers. Opossums are about eight times less likely to carry rabies than wild dogs, and about one in eight hundred opossums are infected with this virus.

Didelphimorphs are opportunistic omnivores with a very broad diet. Their diet mainly consists of carrion and many individual opossums are killed on the
highway when scavenging for roadkill. They are also known to eat insects, frogs, birds, snakes, small mammals, slugs, and earthworms. Some of their
favorite foods are fruits, and they are known to eat avocados, apples, clementines, and persimmons. Their broad diet allows them to take advantage
of many sources of food provided by human habitation such as unsecured food waste (garbage) and pet food.

When threatened or harmed, they will "play possum", mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal. This physiological response is
involuntary (like fainting), rather than a conscious act. In the case of baby opossums, however, the brain does not always react this way at the appropriate
moment, and therefore they often fail to "play dead" when threatened. When "playing possum", the animal's lips are drawn back, the teeth are bared,
saliva foams around the mouth, the eyes close or half-close, and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from the anal glands. Their stiff, curled form can be
prodded, turned over, and even carried away without reaction.[citation needed] The animal will typically regain consciousness after a period of between
40 minutes and 4 hours, a process which begins with slight twitchings of the ears.

Adult opossums do not hang from trees by their tails, as sometimes depicted, though babies may dangle temporarily. Their semi-prehensile tails are not
strong enough to support a mature adult's weight. Instead, the opossum uses its tail as a brace and a fifth limb when climbing. The tail is occasionally
used as a grip to carry bunches of leaves or bedding materials to the nest. A mother will sometimes carry her young upon her back, where they will
cling tightly even when she is climbing or running.

Three-toed-sloth, Bradypus variegatus

Three-toed-sloth, Bradypus variegatus, Lake Gatun, Republic of Panama
Photo: Stefan Laube

Sloths are the six species of medium-sized mammals belonging to the families Megalonychidae (two-toed sloth) and Bradypodidae (three-toed sloth).
They are part of the order Pilosa and are therefore related to armadillos and anteaters, which sport a similar set of specialized claws. Sloths are
arboreal (tree dwelling) residents of the jungles of Central and South America, and are known for being slow-moving.

Sloths are classified as folivores as the bulk of their diet consists mostly of buds, tender shoots, and leaves, mainly of Cecropia trees. Some two-toed
sloths have been documented as eating insects, small reptiles and birds as a small supplement to their diet

Leaves, their main food source, provide very little energy or nutrition and do not digest easily. Sloths therefore have large, specialized, slow-acting
stomachs with multiple compartments in which symbiotic bacteria break down the tough leaves. As much as two-thirds of a well-fed sloth's body-weight
consists of the contents of its stomach, and the digestive process can take a month or more to complete.

Three-toed-sloth, Bradypus sp, Cahuita National Park, Costa Rica
Photo: Christian Mehlführer

Sloth fur exhibits specialized functions: the outer hairs grow in a direction opposite from that of other mammals. In most mammals hairs grow toward
the extremities, but because sloths
spend so much time with their legs above their bodies, their hairs grow away from the extremities in order to provide
protection from the elements while the sloth hangs upside down. In most conditions, the fur hosts two species of symbiotic cyanobacteria, which provide
camouflage. Because of the cyanobacteria, sloth fur is a small ecosystem of its own, hosting many species of non-parasitic insects. Sloths have short, flat
heads; big eyes; a short snout; long legs; and tiny ears. They might have stubby tails (6–7 cm long), but not in all species. Altogether, sloths' bodies usually
are anywhere between 50 and 60 cm long.

Sloths move only when necessary and even then very slowly: they have about a quarter as much muscle tissue as other animals of similar weight. They can
move at a marginally higher speed if they are in immediate danger from a predator (4 m per minute for the three-toed sloth), but they burn large amounts
of energy doing so. Their specialised hands and feet have long, curved claws to allow them to hang upside-down from branches without effort.
While they sometimes sit on top of branches, they usually eat, sleep, and even give birth hanging from limbs. They sometimes remain hanging from branches
after death. On the ground the maximum speed of the three-toed sloth is 2 m per minute.

Infant sloths normally cling to their mothers' fur, but occasionally fall off. Sloths are very sturdily built and rarely die from a fall. In some cases they die
from a fall indirectly because the mothers prove unwilling to leave the safety of the trees to retrieve the young. Females normally bear one baby every year,
but sometimes sloths' low level of movement actually keeps females from finding males for longer than one year.

ARKive video - Young pale-throated three-toed sloth with female

Young pale-throated three-toed sloth
with female
NDR Naturfilm and Parthenon Entertainment Ltd
Audio: Granada Wild

ARKive video - Pale-throated three-toed sloth falling into river and swimming

Pale-throated three-toed sloth falling into river
and swimming
NDR Naturfilm and Parthenon Entertainment Ltd
Audio: Natural FX, The British Library Sound Archive
and Master Tracks


ARKive video - Pale-throated three-toed sloth climbing down from tree and crawling

Pale-throated three-toed sloth
climbing down from tree and crawling
NDR Naturfilm and Parthenon Entertainment Ltd
Audio: BBC Natural History Unit, Granada Wild

From a Panorama of the Iguazu waterfalls from Brazil
Photo: Martin St-Amant


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