All jungles can be dark and spooky, but the Amazon might just be the darkest and spookiest jungle of all. Many animals of the Amazon hold "world's biggest" titles, whether that refers to size or how deadly they can be. The Amazon itself is massive; it represents over half of the rainforests left on Earth. Its lush greenery spreads across Brazil, Peru, and Colombia – and all the creepy insects and prowling predators spread right along with it.
And it's not just the trees or the underbrush that house these frightening creatures. Amazon River animals can be scary as well. The massive river and its tributaries house vicious black caimans and slithering anacondas, as well as surprisingly frightening creatures like giant otters. They make look cuddly, but they're shockingly effective killers.
You probably know about some of the nice animals that live in the Amazon, but what about the Amazon animals that could possibly kill you? South American species definitely don't mess around.
Brazilian wandering spiders have one of the deadliest venoms in the world. Their bite can cause a human to lose muscle control, become paralyzed, and suffer from severe pain. Inflammation of the lungs and throat can also cause breathing problems. What's more, you might not even see them before they strike – since these spiders prefer moist, damp places, they tend to hide in crevices or under rocks on the jungle floor.
To say these spiders are scary is an understatement. Since they can be transported by hiding in people's clothing and can sometimes be discovered in crates of bananas, they aren't just the Amazon's problem.
The bullet ant has the world's most painful sting. When it bites you, it injects venom that causes horrible affects to the victim for at least 12 hours and up to an entire day. Entomologist Dr. Justin Schmidt has made it his life's work to experience the bites of as many insects as possible, and has found the bullet ant to be the most painful by far: "The pain is so immediate and intense that it shuts down all illusions of life as normal. Imagine sticking a finger in a 240 volt electrical socket.”
Plus, bullet ants are huge. They're the largest in the world at almost one inch long. They are carnivores and will eat other small insects, and also pick fights with other ant colonies.
The Amazon has almost every other deadly thing you can think of, so why not fungus? While new species are being discovered every year, at least one form of fungus has been observed to take over ants, use their bodies as hosts to spread spores while the victims slowly die, and then use the carcasses to grow some more.
The fungus attaches itself to an ant as it walks on the rainforest floor. Then, it releases specialized chemicals that control the ant's behavior, effectively turning it into a zombie. The fungus forces the ant to crawl up into a tree and latch on before it dies so the reborn fungus will be in a suitable environment to thrive. Now that's some scary spore.
Pit vipers get their name from the heat sensors located on their heads between their eyes and nostrils. These bizarre holes detect changes in temperature, and the vipers use this information to track prey. The pit viper family includes many different kinds of snakes, such as water moccasins or rattlesnakes, but they all share one trait: venom. And pit viper venom is special; rather than attacking the victim's respiratory system, it destroys red blood cells.
There are several kinds of pit vipers found in the Amazon, including terciopelos and bushmaster snakes. Terciopelos seem to be the most common culprits when people get bitten. Bushmaster snakes, on the other hand, are less frequently seen – although they can grow up to eight feet long.