Apr 29
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ARKive Geographic: Brazil

This time on ARKive Geographic, we’re taking you on a virtual trip to the largest country in South America – Brazil!  Brazil’s vast geography and rich biodiversity make it a great topic for conservation discussions and scientific study. Because of its tropical climate, Brazil has several kinds of ecosystems: grasslands, coastlines, swamps, and the world famous Atlantic forest. In fact, a whopping eight percent of all the worlds’ plants species are found in the Atlantic rainforest and researchers believe there are many more plant and animal species yet to be discovered.

We’ve had a search through the 900+ species on ARKive that call Brazil home and shared some of our favorites below. Join us for a whirlwind species adventure across Brazil!

Flashy flycatcher

Photo of Atlantic royal flycatcher

Check out the headpiece on this fellow! The Atlantic royal flycatcher is endemic to Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest where habitat loss poses a constant threat. Only an estimated 8% of the original rainforest remains today and reforestation efforts are a large conservation priority in Brazil. As its name suggests, this flycatcher is particularly keen to dine on flying insects, particularly dragonflies.

Airborne arthropod

Photo of long-horned beetle

Think this long-horned beetle can’t fly? Think again! Underneath its unique black and brown patterning are delicate wing cases. Even more unique is the fact that the long-horned beetle can spend up to 10 years of its life in the larval stage, while its adult phase only lasts a few short months.

Healthful hardwood

Photo of pau brasil tree

Brazil takes its name from the Endangered pau brasil tree which is a huge source of red dye and an integral part of the country’s trade history. Its vibrant yellow leaves give off a strong smelling perfume and scientists have even utilized extracts from this tree for potential cancer treatment. Native Brazilian trees star in the new, free, online game from ARKive called Team WILD showing that scientists are true superheroes!

Ample alligator

Photo of black caiman

Not to be confused with the American alligator, the black caiman is the largest of all the alligator species. Its tough, dark scales help it camouflage easily in the water however was also highly prized by hunters since the 1940’s resulting in a 99% decrease in the wild populations. Captive breeding and reintroduction programs in Bolivia have been successful however, programs in other countries are needed to assist in the full recovery of this special reptile.

Troupe of team-workers

Photo of Brazilian bare-faced tamarin

This New World monkey is currently one of the most Endangered primates in the Amazon due to fragmented range and habitat loss. Highly social, the Brazilian bare-faced tamarin seems to embody the phrase “it takes a village to raise child” as various members of the groups assist with caring for the young!

Azure amphibian

Photo of dyeing poison frog

This little frog sure packs a mighty punch! The poison of the dyeing poison frog is strong enough to paralyze and even kill large spiders and snakes. Interestingly, this species is able to generate its poison through its rainforest ant diet.

We hope you enjoyed this glimpse of Brazil’s striking wildlife. If you’d like to find out more about more species in this diverse country, try exploring our Brazil species search results page where you can discover new (to you!) species.

Andrea Small, Intern, Wildscreen USA

Aug 16
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In the News: Large mammals dying off in rainforest fragments

Large mammals are being lost from Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest much faster than expected, according to a recent study.

Close-up photo of jaguar resting in tree

A jaguar, one of the species included in the study

The study, undertaken by scientists from Brazil and the UK, looked at 18 mammal species in 196 forest fragments, and compared their current populations to estimates of their population densities before Europeans colonised the region about 500 years ago.

The results of the study, published in the journal PLoS One, showed that mammals are being lost from forest fragments at least twice as fast as previous estimates suggested.

Staggering declines

Of over 3,500 mammal populations estimated to have originally lived in the study area, only about 22% remain today. Among the species being lost are large, charismatic mammals such as the jaguar, lowland tapir, northern muriqui and giant anteater, while the white-lipped peccary has been completely wiped out in the region.

Only 3 of the 18 species studied – two small monkeys and an armadillo – were still present across the whole area.

We uncovered a staggering process of local extinctions of mid-sized and large mammals,” said Dr Gustavo Canale of the State University of Mato Grosso (UNEMAT), one of the authors of the study.

Photo of white-lipped peccaries caught on camera trap

The white-lipped peccary has now become extinct in the area of Atlantic forest surveyed

Fragmented forest

The Atlantic forest is one of the most diverse and biologically rich forests in the world, with many of its species found nowhere else. However, it is also one of the world’s most highly threatened ecosystems, with only 8% of its original cover remaining.

Centuries of logging, urbanisation and clearance for ranches, agriculture and plantations have left only small fragments of forest intact, and what remains is often degraded. Forest fragments are also highly accessible to hunters, as well as being vulnerable to fires and to ‘edge effects’, which include increased exposure to winds and drought.

Photo of a lowland tapir swimming

Lowland tapir

According to Dr Canale, the presence of the mammals in the study could not be predicted by the size of the forest fragment, with even large patches of forest lacking many species. On average, only 4 of the target mammal species were found in each forest fragment, and none of the sites studied contained all 18 species.

Previous estimates of mammal populations assumed that large areas of forest would be able to support more species, but failed to take into account the combined effects of multiple threats.

You might expect forest fragments with a relatively intact canopy structure to still support high levels of biodiversity,” explained Carlos Peres, another of the authors of the study. “Our study demonstrates that this is rarely the case, unless these fragments are strictly protected from hunting pressure.”

Photo of a nine-banded armadillo, front profile

Nine-banded armadillo, one of the only mammals that still occurs across the entire study area

Vital protection

These findings, which suggest that even large forest fragments are not enough to save many mammals from local extinction, raise concerns for tropical forests around the world, many of which are becoming increasingly fragmented.

The study found that mammals only fared better in official protected areas such as national parks, where forest fragments are large and hunting is banned. The team therefore recommends that more protected areas are needed and that their protection should be strictly enforced.

Photo of a northern muriqui sitting in branches

Northern muriqui, another species included in the study

Unfortunately, only a tiny fraction of the Atlantic forest currently has protected status, and the Brazilian government is under pressure from farmers to reduce forest protection. A final vote on changes to the government’s Forest Code is expected by the end of August.

According to Jean Paul Metzger, an ecologist at the University of São Paulo who was not involved in the study, “The new bill doesn’t explicitly stimulate deforestation, but it doesn’t impose forest restoration either. That means protected areas are likely to remain isolated, which in turn may mean more extinctions in the future.”

Read more on this story at Nature News & Comment and Mongabay.

Read more about the Atlantic forest on ARKive.

View photos and videos of Atlantic forest mammals on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

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