Amazon Rainforest: 13 Unknown Facts that Make it Seem Like Another Planet

Image of the dense rainforest viewed from the top of a hill in the remote location of the Amazon Basin, State of Tocantins Brazil

The Amazon Rainforest is vital to Earth’s existence. And since there are so many awesome and interesting facts about the Amazon rainforest—this diverse and extraordinary area of the globe—it’s little wonder that people want to protect it.

In fact, the entire global water cycle depends on this strangely beautiful place… which almost seems like another planet!

Many People Ask, “What Are Some Interesting Facts about the Amazon Rainforest?”

If you’ve ever wondered about what makes the world’s rainforests so amazing, you’re not alone.

The following 13 fun facts about the Amazon rainforest are amazing, but they’re only a drop in the bucket compared to the vast and incredible benefits we all get from this distinctive part of the planet. In fact, the wondrous nature of this unique ecosystem is out of this world!

The Definition and Description of a Rainforest Will Surprise You

Tropical rainforests thrive near the equator, which may not surprise you. The solar radiation at the equator causes massive amounts of evaporation, which cools and falls back to earth as rain. However, heat and rainfall amounts are the main factors that make rainforests different than other forests.

Fact 1: The Average Rainforest Temperature Is above 68° F.

In the tropical rainforests of the planet, it rains more than 90 days a year and most see anywhere from 8 to 14 feet of rainfall annually, and the Amazon rainforest climate is no different.

In between periods of rainfall, the warm sun fosters explosive plant growth, accounting for the unparalleled biodiversity found only in tropical rainforests.

Stunning Details for Understanding the Rainforest Background

  • Rainforests are home to half of the planet’s animal and plant species
  • Two thirds of all flowering plants are found in the rainforest
  • A single hectare of rainforest could contain 42,000 species of insects, up to 807 trees from hundreds of different species, and 1,500 plant species

Considering their uncontested biodiversity and the vast ecological services they provide, it’s easy to see why rainforests have been called the “jewels of the earth.”

Fact 2: What is the Amazon Rainforest?… It’s the Largest on Earth!

To understand how truly amazing the rainforest is, there’s no better place to look than the largest rainforest on earth: The Amazon. The size of the Amazon Rainforest location is massive… a sprawling swath of tropical forest spanning the Amazon River Basin in South America.

Fact 3: The Amazon Rainforest is Located Predominantly in Brazil, but Encompasses Massive Parts of Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, and Venezuela.

Don’t let the size of the largest rainforest in the world fool you into thinking that there’s plenty to spare. Threatened areas have a huge impact on the global climate, and even one acre lost can have a negative impact. Because these areas are covered with unique and stunning vegetation, the impact it has on the world’s weather patterns is unique. Plus, those ancient trees store carbon, deep in their roots. When they’re burned, not only does it stop their ability to sequester the dangerous greenhouse gas, but it also releases all that carbon back into the atmosphere… where it doesn’t belong.

This removal (aka deforestation) then begins a vicious cycle, impacting global weather patterns, which increase floods, droughts, and wildfires.

What Is the Rainforest Floor?

Like all forests, rainforests are typically segmented by layers, each containing a number of plants and animal species particularly suited to life there.

There are four layers:

  • Emergent: The portion that sees the full sun, with the tallest trees.
  • Canopy: This layer is filled with leaves and branches (and where you would see Tarzan swinging.
  • Understory: The understory is comprised of tree trunks and plants with very large leaves able to catch the dappled light filtering down through the upper layers.
  • Floor: This part is very dark with almost no plant life.
Graphic Image of the rainforest layers from top to bottom emergent, canopy, understory, forest floor

Those with a ‘rainforest mind,’ however, know that the forest floor contains more biodiversity than all the layers above it combined! Out of this world!

Fact 4: How Big Is the Amazon Rainforest?… It’s Huge!!

The Amazon rainforest is the largest rainforest on earth, spanning 6.9 million acres across the massive Amazon River basin. That’s roughly the size of the Continental United States, but it contains the greatest variety of plant and animal species on earth.

Fact 5: Rainforests Used to Cover Much More of the Earth’s Surface than They Do Today.

Sadly, the amount of surface area covered by rainforests has been steadily decreasing. Deforestation has played the primary role in erasing these treasures.

[Image Latin American Deforestation]

How Much Of The World Is Covered By Rainforest?

Rainforests used to cover 14 percent of the earth’s surface. In just a few decades, they have been slashed, burned, and degraded to the point where they now only cover a mere six percent of the planet, less than half of their original range.

Fact 6: The Amazon Rainforest Is Home to One-Fifth of the World’s Plant Species.

Rainforests are homes to some of the world’s most beautifully unique trees… and there are plenty! It’s just another way that this unique area of the planet seems like something from another world!

What Are Some Types of Trees You Can See in the Amazon?

Amazon rainforest plants are numerous and diverse. Some 16,000 tree species grow in the Amazon, making it a vast mosaic of 390 billion individual trees. A few of the most common trees gracing the canopy include:

  • The Rubber Tree: This is one of the most common trees in the Amazon. Its milky sap is used to make rubber products.
  • Brazil Nut: This massive 160-ft tree dominates the canopy. Its massive, 5 pound fruits contain up to two dozen nuts, providing a rich source of protein to people and one rodent species with teeth sharp enough to penetrate the fruit’s tough shell.
  • Cupuaçu: This medium-sized tree is related to cocoa and coffee trees. It produces large, fuzzy fruits whose bittersweet pulp is used to make desserts and sweet treats.
  • Tacuma Palm: This palm is protected by ominous thorns ringing its trunk. Indigenous peoples make flower from its fruit, which has been shown to contain large amounts of antioxidants.

Fact 7: Experts Estimate There Are at Least 2.5 million Separate Insect Species in the Amazon!

This bewildering amount of creepy crawlies is difficult to imagine, but as numerous as the Amazon’s insect species are, each species has an important role to play balancing the delicate ecosystem. Even the smallest alteration of the biome’s balance can have negative impacts on a global scale.

This is why 8 Billion Trees and other organizations are working so hard to rebuild habitats and native ecosystems in the Amazon.

A Few Types Of Insects That Live In The Rainforest Include:

  • The Rhino Beetle: This beetle is famous for its imposing forward-facing horn. The rhino beetle possesses a strength far disproportionate to its size: It can carry 850 times its weight, the equivalent of one human carrying nine adult elephants.
  • Leaf Cutter Ant: These industrious ants teem in the countless trillions. They actually don’t eat the leaves they harvest, but bury them deep underground to grow fungus which the ants meticulously farm to feed their colonies.

Fact 8: Over 40,000 Plant Species Have Been Identified in the Amazon Rain Forest

Interestingly, of those 40,000 different species of plants, approximately 75 percent aren’t found anywhere else in the world! This makes this region unique and wild.

Plants In The Amazon Rainforest Are Amazing

The Amazon’s plant community includes such iconic specimens as:

  • Palm varieties
  • Orchids
  • Bromeliads
  • Epiphytes (air plants)
  • Ferns
  • Lilies
  • And many, many trees.

Types of Animals That Live In the Tropical Rainforest

Although we know about a whole lot of animals in the rainforest, new species of animals are discovered in the rainforest regularly.

Check Out The Following Amazon Rainforest Animal Facts

Fact 9: The Amazon Is Home to a Fifth of Earth’s Bird Species and a Tenth of all Mammal Life.

There are tons of cool animals that call the rainforest their home… one fifth of the world’s bird species call this unique location their home, and one tenth of all mammal life!

Animals of the Amazon include:

  • More than 430 mammal species
  • 428 amphibian species (including the poison dart frog)
  • 378 reptile species

Some of these species aren’t found anywhere else in the world, heightening the urgency to protect their fragile habitats before they are lost forever.

Facts About Sloths In The Amazon Rainforest

The three-toed sloth includes four species, two of which are endemic to the Amazon. The most common, the brown-throated sloth, has a range spanning across the entire Amazon forrest and beyond.

Fact 10: The Sloth’s Specialized, Four-chambered Stomach Allows Them to Live on a Diet Entirely Composed of Leaves, Twigs, and Buds.

For both valid and unfounded reasons, sloths have been dubbed the laziest members of the animal kingdom (they sleep about ten hours a day). They spend nearly their entire lives primarily hanging from branches. But, these animals almost seem like creatures from another planet, sicne they subsist entirely on trees!

Facts About Macaws In The Amazon

The vibrant macaw is the largest member of the parrot family. They are social birds, usually traveling in parental pairs with a handful of young. But in groups, they can congregate in staggering thousands. Ripe fruits and seeds are no challenge for their robust beaks, which can crack the hardest of nuts.

These intelligent birds can live up to 80 years in captivity. Their intelligence, beauty, and longevity make them desirable pets. The illicit pet trade of macaws stands as one of the gravest dangers to the future of this beautiful bird. But domestication isn’t the only threat to this incredible bird.

Fact 11: The Decline of Primary Forestland Has Led Some Macaw Species to Travel Farther and Farther in Search of an Ideal Habitat, and Some Never Return.

Working to reforest devastated areas can help keep these beautiful creatures reestablish their numbers in their native habitat. These beautiful birds play a key role in keeping the unique ecosystem of the rainforest healthy. Deforestation is altering the natural order of the planet, and this unnatural migration is having a terrible impact.

What Sort Of Congo Rainforest Animals Are Endangered?

The Amazon isn’t the only rainforest with endangered species like the macaw. The Congo Rainforest is home to some of the largest and well-known endangered species in the world, including forest elephants, chimpanzees, bononbos, and gorillas. Bushmeat trade, deforestation, and the ivory trade are the main culprits in the disappearance of these amazing rainforest animals.

Are Amazon River Animals deadly?

The fear of rainforest animals undoubtedly plays a part in the destruction of these areas, and Amazon River species aren’t exempt. Five particular river-dwelling species strike a chord of fear in many who see them:

The Green Anaconda

Measuring up to 30 feet and weighing up to 550 pounds, the anaconda is the world’s most massive snake. Though the anaconda preys on animals larger and stronger than humans, there are no confirmed cases of the massive snake eating a human being.

The Candiru Fish.

This small, 3-5cm fish is the stuff of nightmares. According to legend, it is attracted to the smell of urine, following the trail into the urethra and burrowing itself into the genitals, where it commences to eat from the inside out and lay eggs. However, this legend has been regarded myth, with no verified accounts of the fish’s appetite for human genitals.

The Black Caiman

This massive reptile can span 15 feet from tail to chin. It is a ferocious predator, capable of catching and drowning large mammals. However, black caimans are extremely unlikely to attack a human unprovoked.

Bull sharks

These large, saltwater sharks often travel far into freshwater, including the Amazon River. They are fearless explorers and hunters, and are perhaps the only aquatic animal worth fearing in the Amazon River: There are 69 confirmed unprovoked attacks on humans by bull sharks, and likely more.

Piranhas

These legendary fish are perhaps the most infamous animals in the Amazon River. The legend surrounding them isn’t completely unfounded: A recent study in Brazil found a significant number of people were bitten by piranhas within the study timeline.

But the study found piranha aggression was correlated with shallow water and threatened breeding grounds, which suggests these fish only become violent in stressed, overcrowded areas.

There are no documented piranha fatalities, and confirmed attacks are relatively sparse and inconsequential. Occasionally, human bodies are washed ashore ravaged by piranhas, but the piranha bites were likely inflicted after death, not the cause of it.

More Fun Facts About Brazil And Its Rainforest’s ‘Other-Worldly’ Nature

  • There are more than 3,000 edible fruits that grow in the Amazon
  • In 2007, Martin Strel swam the entire length of the entire Amazon River (with only a few piranha bites, no bull shark attacks, and no unsolicited Candiru probing).
  • The Amazon rainforest canopy is so thick that the entire forest floor is covered in perpetual shade. When rain falls, it takes up to ten minutes to hit the ground.

More Fun Facts About Venezuela And Its Rainforest

Venezuela is one of the top ten most biodiverse countries on the planet and its rainforest areas contain:

  • Over 21,000 plant species
  • 353 mammals
  • 323 reptile species
  • 1,400 birds
  • 288 amphibians

Why Rainforests Are Important to Western Medicine and the Planet: An Explanation

Given the current global pandemic, it seems more crucial than ever that rainforests must be protected to ensure that medical discoveries aren’t lost forever. But, there’s more.

Rainforests are often called “the world’s largest pharmacy.” Their breathtaking biodiversity produces over a quarter of the world’s natural medicines. And more are being discovered every day: It is estimated that millions of species of plants and animals remain to be discovered, each with its own role to play in the rainforest and the greater global ecosystem.

Protecting Endangered Species

Human-caused destruction of the rainforest is the largest factor playing into threatened species that live there. This is why 8 Billion Trees has targeted its efforts in the Amazon Rainforest. To see the exciting work being done in the Amazon Rainforest Carbon Offsetting Project click here.

Fact 12: Every Day, 200,000 Acres of Rainforest Is Burned, Including the Homes that Countless Plant and Animal Species Rely on for Survival.

Preserving the rainforest is key to protecting the endangered species that live there, such as:

  • Gorilla
  • Poison dart frog
  • Golden lion tamarin monkey
  • Manatee
  • Bengal tiger
  • Chimpanzee
  • Orangutan
  • Harpy eagle
  • Jaguar
  • Leopard
  • Three-toed sloth
  • Toucan
  • Macaw

Rainforests Are Crucial For Cleaning Earth’s Air

Though only covering about six percent of the planet’s surface now, rainforests punch way above their weight class in providing ecological services. That is why an Amazon rainforest fire is so devastating to the planet.

Fact 13: Rainforests Produce 40% of the Earth’s Oxygen and Sequester Massive Amounts of Carbon Dioxide.

Trees are an essential tool in mitigating and even reversing the effects of climate change. Trees are considered the best terrestrial carbon sinks, and understanding their role in capturing and storing carbon is a critical part of the earth’s carbon mitigation portfolio.

Mitigating Climate Change The Rainforest Way

Tropical rainforests absorb and store more carbon than any other biome on the planet, nearly 247 gigatons per year in all the tropical forests combined, which is about 90 years of global fossil fuel emissions at current levels absorbed, every year.

But this massive store of carbon is being released by burning, slashing, and degrading the rainforests, and now the planet’s tropical forests may soon be emitting more carbon than they absorb.

Bonus Fact: Researchers Estimate that Tropical Deforestation and Degradation Account for 10 to 20 Percent of all Anthropogenic Carbon Emissions, and this Number is Rising as More and More Forests Are Cut Down, Burned, and Permanently Converted into Monocrops and Grassland.

Rainforests are an essential part of the global ecosystem. Without them, the earth will lose unfathomable biological richness, invaluable oxygen production, and an essential tool in fighting climate change.

Protecting The Future Of Rainforests

If lost, a world without rainforests marks the end of the world as it is now known. These reasons combined, should make rainforest survival a priority for world governments, corporations, organizations, and citizens.

To learn how to help the Amazon rainforest contact 8 Billion Trees. We’re working to replant and protect these resources for future generations.