Animal Myths & Oddities From South America

From See-Through Frogs & Vegetarian Piranhas to some Creatures Of Legend & Myth (Or are they?) Here are some animals of south America that left me speechless. What is the strangest animal you have ever seen?

12 See Through Frog

By Sanjay Acharya - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
By Sanjay Acharya - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

In the movies, remember the science class where kids used frogs to learn their anatomy? Things have changed since the discovery of the glass frog.  Hight up in the tree canopies of S. and C. A. the glass frog looks like any other frog until its stomach is observed.  Its belly is translucent so no need to open them up to learn about them!!  Another rarity was found in Argentina, a really fluorescent frog. When you point it with violet light, the arboric frog goes from simple to spectacular!!...

11 The South American Camel


When you think of a camel, S.A does not come to mind.  But there are actually 4 camelids in south America.  The most known are the llama y alpaca, who look very similar and could actually cross breed. The other two are found high up in the Andes mountains and are the wild versions of the llama and alpaca. They are the vicuna and the guanaco. One unique characteristic is that all of them, when threatened, they will spit. Llamas and alpacas are popular not only for its soft wool but also its milk and meat.

10 Orange Tortoise Spider

By Gil Wizen,
By Gil Wizen,

One of the cutest spiders you would ever see comes from the amazon forest. Not much is known about this Orb-weaver that is, a spider that makes its web in circles, like what you usually see in a garden.  Typically, bright colors in nature are a warning to stay away because they are poisonous or at least taste really bad to predators!! Since much is not known and there are always new species being discovered, the orange tortoise spider could be mascaraing as a meaner predator to stay safe… what video game does it remind you of?

9 Purple Atelopus


Also known as the fluorescent frog, is so bright, it looks fake and somewhat similar to a poisonous dart frog. The Atelopus is also known as the purple harlequin toad and was discovered in 2007 in the small country of Suriname.  Unfortunately, its habitat is being threaten by illegal gold mining and of course people like to have them as pets….

8 The Largest Rodent!


How high would you jump if you saw a rat the size of a large dog that could run as fast as a horse? This rodent sound like a nightmare until you see its cute face and very kind demeaner!! Meet the capybara, a gentle giant who lives in the center of the amazon rain forest and it’s a relative of the guinea pig.  Capybaras live in large groups of up to a 100 to protect themselves from predators like jaguars and the massive anaconda snakes. They don’t have much of a defense mechanism but its running speed and perfect swimming skills!

7 The Minhocão: Real or Fake?

By Ryan Quick from Greenbelt, MD, USA - Titanoboa 1, CC BY 2.0,
By Ryan Quick from Greenbelt, MD, USA - Titanoboa 1, CC BY 2.0,

Imagine a serpent or earthworm… but multiply its size to become as large as two school buses and you’ll get the minhocão.  Although no images of the monster have ever been taken. The people who inhabit the jungles of S and C. A can definitely describe its black skin and even say that when the animal enters a river, it will flood the area. Scientists are baffled by this mysterious animal and suggest that its either a descendant of the titanoboa, as the name indicates, a giant snake that lived in that same region or just part of the folklore of the region.  Many do blame the animal for collapsed bridges and tunnels…

6 Kinkajous

By Dick Culbert from Gibsons, B.C., Canada - Potos flavus, CC BY 2.0,
By Dick Culbert from Gibsons, B.C., Canada - Potos flavus, CC BY 2.0,

No, this one is not mythological although the name sounds like it.  This little mammal living in s and c america is related to the raccoon.  Kinkajous are also known as “Honey Bear”. Using their long tongs to get honey from hives, nectar from flowers as well as hunt for termites. A unique characteristic of the Kinkajous, besides their dreamy eyes, is that they can turn their feet backwards allowing it go head first down a tree or hang from branches. This clever creature hardly ever touched the ground. They have all they need in the tree canopy.

5 Surubi


This is a very large cousin of the cat fish! known by many names such as bagre in Colombia or zungaro in Peru. it can grow so large as to trick people into thinking they are seeing a small shark. This nocturnal hunter will eat anything that crosses its path can be found in many rivers in s.a. The Surubi is very important for the fishing industry as its very abundant.  Unfortunately, uncontrolled fishing had led to the disappearance of some of its species.

4 The Majestic Vulture

the most fascinating south American animals

The most iconic s.a bird as well as the largest flying bird in the world, meet the Andean condor. With a wing span of about 10 ft. this bird lives in areas where the wind is very strong so to glide through the air effortlessly not only in the mountains but also near coastal areas where thermal air currents are common.  The Andean condors only produce one egg every 2 years and the babies take 6-8 years to reach full adulthood. It sound long but they live up to 50 years in the wild.  Unfortunately, pesticides, deforestation and hunting have been threatening them close to extinction... The condor of the Andes was declared a natural monument of Chile in 2006 and is a cultural and natural heritage of South America.

3 The Real Basilisk


Greek legend has it that the basilisk, known as “the king or serpents”, is a hybrid between a rooster, a bat and a snake and filled with venom.  In real life, in SA though the basilisk looks like a faster version of an iguana with superpowers! It can walk over water!  Its webbed back feet allow it to walk over rivers and lakes, well actually run over it. Once it slows down, the basilisk will have to swim like any other critter!!

2 The Vegetarian Piranhas


Oh Piranhas. For sure you’ve have heard the stories of fishermen in the amazon river who while railing a catch, only bones were left… but not all piranhas are the same.  The Tambaqui is the largest and most recently discovered specie of piranhas that have a different take on food… This mega fish only eats fruits and seeds that have fallen of trees.  What makes this unique animal so special is not only its eating habits but the way it helps increase plant diversity.  The tambaqui like to travel long distances in the amazon river and however far it goes, it will eat and eliminate innumerable amounts of seeds… There is no better way to spread plants around.

1 A Snake with Lashes!


Eyelash Viper, this fashionable snake got its name from two long scales above its eyes that serve to protect them while the snake crawls thought thick foliage above ground.  But don’t let is mesmerizing eyes fool you. This venomous reptile hunts by striking its prey injecting venom before making them a meal.  Coming in a rainbow of colors, the eyelash viper uses its colors to camouflage among the fruits and flowers its food likes to eat.

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