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s m i t h s o n i a n

First American Edition, 2015


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Consultants
MAMMALS INVERTEBRATES
Professor David Macdonald CBE is a leading world authority on mammals, Dr. George C. McGavin is a zoologist, author, explorer, and television host.
and is founder and Director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at He is an Honorary Research Associate of the Oxford University Museum of
Oxford University, UK. Aside from his many scientific publications, he is Natural History and a Research Associate of the Department of Zoology at
known for his prize-winning books and films, such as Meerkats United. Oxford University, UK. His TV credits include Expedition Borneo, Lost Land
of the Jaguar, Lost Land of the Tiger, and Monkey Planet.
BIRDS
David Burnie studied Zoology at Bristol University, UK, and has contributed
to nearly 150 books on animals and the environment. He is a Fellow of the GENERAL CONSULTANT
Zoological Society of London. Dr. Kim Dennis-Bryan is a paleontologist who worked at the Natural History
Museum, London, before becoming an associate lecturer in life and
REPTILES environmental sciences at the Open University, UK.
Dr. Colin McCarthy is a scientific associate of the Life Sciences Department,
and formerly Collection Manager of Reptiles, Amphibians, and Fish, at the
Natural History Museum, London, UK. EDITORIAL CONSULTANT
Dr. Don E. Wilson is Curator Emeritus, Vertebrate Zoology, National Museum
AMPHIBIANS of Natural History, Smithsonian. He is the author of more than 250 scientific
Professor Tim Halliday retired as Professor of Biology at the Open publications and 25 books on a variety of topics, including the mammals of
University in 2009 but continues to pursue his interest in the reproductive North America, bats, humans, biodiversity, and mammal species of the world.
biology of amphibians. He is an elected Fellow of the AAAS, and Honorary member of ASM.

Contributors
Jamie Ambrose is a UK-based American author, editor, and journalist with a Tom Jackson is a zoologist and science writer based in Bristol, UK.
special interest in the natural world. Steve Parker has a zoology degree and has written more than 200 books and
Richard Beatty (glossary writer) is a writer and editor based in Edinburgh, websites on nature, ecology, conservation, and evolution.
UK. Dr. Katie Parsons has a PhD in animal behavior and ecology. She is currently a
Dr. Amy-Jane Beer is a biologist, nature writer, and editor of the UK charity freelance natural history writer and conservation consultant.
PTES (People’s Trust for Endangered Species) Wildlife World magazine. John Woodward has written more than 40 books and many hundreds of articles
Derek Harvey is a naturalist with particular interests in evolutionary biology, on all aspects of the natural world.
and writer for titles that include DK’s Science and The Natural History Book.
Ben Hoare is features editor of BBC Wildlife magazine, UK.
Rob Hume is a natural history writer and editor with a lifetime interest in
wildlife, especially birds. He is author of more than 20 books, including DK’s
Bird, and Birds of Europe and North America.
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DATA PANELS
Summary information is given at the start of each profile. Measurements HABITAT SYMBOLS
are for adults of the species and may be a typical range, single-figure Rivers, streams, and all
Temperate and deciduous
average, or maximum, depending on available records. flowing water
forest, open woodland

LENGTH (all groups)


Evergreen, coniferous, and Mangrove swamps, above or
MAMMALS Head and body excluding tail. For dolphins, whales, seals, below the waterline
boreal forest and woodland
sea lions, manatees, and dugongs it includes the tail. BIRDS Tip of bill
to tip of tail (except penguins, ostrich, rhea, and emu, which indicates
Tropical forest and Coastal areas including
height from feet to head). REPTILES Tip of snout to tip of tail (except
rainforest, dry forest beaches and cliffs, areas just
tortoises and turtles where it is the length of the upper shell). FISH AND of Madagascar above high tide, in the
AMPHIBIANS Head and body, including tail. INSECTS Body length; intertidal zone, and in
wingspan for butterflies and moths. shallow, offshore waters
Mountains, highlands, scree
WEIGHT (Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish only) slopes, any habitat Seas and oceans
considered alpine or
Body weight.
subalpine conditions
DIET All diet listed by commas (except caterpillars’ diet; butterflies’ diet, Coral reefs and waters
Desert and semi-desert immediately around them
separated by a semicolon).

BREEDING SEASON (Amphibians only) The time of year in which Polar regions, including
breeding occurs. Open habitats including tundra and icebergs
grassland, moor, heath,
STATUS (all groups) Wildlife of the World uses the IUCN Red List savanna, fields, and scrub
Urban areas, including
(see p459) and other threat categories, as follows:
buildings, parks, and gardens
Critically endangered (IUCN) Facing an extremely high risk of
Wetlands and all still bodies
extinction in the wild in the immediate future. of water, including lakes,
Endangered (IUCN) Facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild ponds, pools, marshes, bogs,
in the near future. and swamps
Vulnerable (IUCN) Facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the
medium-term future. LOCATION MAP
Near threatened (IUCN) Strong possibility of becoming endangered
in the near future.
Common/Locally common (IUCN: Least concern) Low-risk category
that includes widespread and common species.
Not known (IUCN: Data deficient, Not evaluated) Not a threat Shows distribution of
category. Population and distribution data is insufficient for species in the wild
assessment. Data not yet assessed against IUCN criteria.
CONTENTS

ANIMAL NORTH CENTRAL EUROPE


HABITATS AMERICA AND SOUTH 130
10 20 AMERICA 132 PLAINS AND PENINSULAS

12 FORESTS 22 PEAKS AND PRAIRIES


74 134 NORWEGIAN FJORDS

14 GRASSLANDS 24 CANADIAN ARCTIC 140 SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS


76 LAND OF THE JAGUAR
16 EXTREME ENVIRONMENTS 34 YELLOWSTONE 146 THE CAMARGUE
78 COSTA RICAN RAINFOREST
18 AQUATIC ENVIRONMENTS 44 CENTRAL GREAT PLAINS 152 TAGUS VALLEY
84 ANDEAN YUNGAS
52 SIERRA NEVADA 158 THE ALPS
90 AMAZON RAINFOREST
60 MOJAVE DESERT 164 BAVARIAN FOREST
100 THE PANTANAL
66 FLORIDA EVERGLADES 108 ANDEAN ALTIPLANO

114 ARGENTINE PAMPAS

122 GALAPAGOS ISLANDS


AFRICA ASIA AUSTRALASIA ANTARCTICA
174 244 310 360
176 A SUNBAKED LAND 246 LAND OF EXTREMES 312 THE RED CONTINENT 362 LAND OF ICE AND SNOW

178 ETHIOPIAN HIGHLANDS 248 ARABIAN HIGHLANDS 314 NEW GUINEA MONTANE 364 SOUTHERN OCEAN ISLANDS
FOREST
184 GREAT RIFT VALLEY LAKES 254 TERAI-DUAR SAVANNAS 370 ANTARCTIC PENINSULA
320 NORTH AUSTRALIA
192 SERENGETI SAVANNAS 266 EASTERN HIMALAYAS SAVANNAS

208 CONGO BASIN 272 UPPER YANGTZE FORESTS 328 GREAT SANDY-TANAMI 376 THE ANIMAL KINGDOM
DESERT
218 OKAVANGO DELTA 278 GOBI DESERT 456 GLOSSARY
334 EAST AUSTRALIAN
228 KALAHARI DESERT 284 NIHONKAI MONTANE FORESTS 460 INDEX
FOREST
236 MADAGASCAN DRY 344 GREAT BARRIER REEF 478 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
FORESTS 292 BORNEAN RAINFOREST
354 NEW ZEALAND MIXED
302 SULU-SULAWESI SEAS FOREST
FOREWORD
We share the world with an extraordinary diversity of wildlife,
the breadth and depth of which is, frankly, wonderful. As our
ancestors traveled through the continents of planet Earth, they
encountered amazing animals in each new area they explored.
This “biogeography”—or how species are geographically
distributed throughout different natural habitats—is something
you can now experience for yourself in the following pages, by
discovering which animals inhabit each continent’s ecosystems.
It is the aim of this book to present a visually compelling
exploration of the world’s ecoregions by summarizing the
creatures that live there, as well as providing key facts about
their life cycles and biology.

More than 40 ecoregions are described in depth, and all are


complemented by a spectacular view of the animals—both the
familiar and the less well-known—that inhabit them. By grouping
species together within their natural habitats, it becomes easy
to spot the top predators in each one, as well as the variety of
creatures that live alongside them. Combining this global view
with the very best the world of wildlife photography has to offer
allows us to take you on a journey that can be completed in a
variety of ways, but always at your own pace, and in the comfort
of your home.

Most people are familiar with the animals, large and small,
that share the regions in which we live. The current age of easy
worldwide travel has allowed some of us to experience more exotic
parts of the globe, where the animals are unfamiliar, different, and
sometimes very strange indeed. Yet this diversity of habitats and
organisms is, sadly, diminishing as the world becomes ever more
populated with humans, and the impact of those increasing
populations takes a heavy toll on natural areas worldwide.

The more we can learn about the diversity of wildlife on our


planet, the easier and more effective it will be to design and
implement conservation programs that ensure we retain species
for future generations. As you make your way through this
stunning compilation of our planet’s amazing animals, enjoy
the wonder and spectacle of life on Earth and take a moment
to realize just how lucky we are to be a part of it—in our
own time and place.

DON E. WILSON
SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE, WASHINGTON, D.C.
1 0 | ANIMAL H ABITATS

ANIMAL HABITATS
Two-thirds of Earth’s surface is covered by oceans. It is this abundance of water that
enables the planet to support billions of living organisms, both in the seas and on the
ECO R EG I O N
continents and islands that make up the land. The environment in which an organism
lives is its habitat, and the huge range of habitats found on land are home to a vast The Alps comprise
number of plant species and a spectacular diversity of animals. one of the world’s best-known
montane ecoregions. They extend into
eight European countries, forming a
snow-tipped arc that stretches from
Geographers divide the world into ecoregions characterized France and Italy in the southwest to
by broad habitat types such as forest, grassland, wetland, Austria in the east.
desert, or polar zones. These can in turn be subdivided
almost endlessly into more precise habitats, each supporting
a unique community of plant and animals.
Climate exerts a powerful influence over each
of the world’s great ecoregions. Energy input CO N T I N E N T
from the Sun is greatest at the tropics, and the
transfer of this energy via the atmosphere and In southern Europe,
oceans generates the currents of air and water the warm waters of the
that drive the world’s weather systems. Mediterranean lap the coast and much
On land, weathering of rock leads to the of the land is covered by Mediterranean
woodland and scrub. The soaring
formation of soil in which plants grow,
mountains of the Alps form a physical
forming the basis of ecological communities. barrier, beyond which lies the
colder, wetter north.
Variety of life
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life in a given
habitat or ecoregion. As a rule, biodiversity
increases toward the equator, with tropical
forests and warm coastal seas registering the
greatest numbers of species. Both poles are
inhabited by comparatively few animal
species, but in the Arctic, many animals live
on land whereas in Antarctica, most animal
life is found in the ocean.
Plants and animals become better adapted
to their particular habitat through natural
selection—those most suited to the
environmental conditions survive in greater
numbers and produce more offspring. This is a
continuous process as habitats change slowly over
time. Sudden events such as volcanic eruptions, floods,
or human development can have catastrophic impacts,
especially on species that are specialized to a certain way
of life. So-called generalist species cope better with change,
such as a fall or rise in temperature, but may be displaced
by specialist species when conditions stabilize.

Scientists estimate that only


14 percent of species have been THE ALPS ECOREGION
If you pick any place on the planet, you will
identified so far, and of those, find a unique set of conditions, influenced by
geography, latitude, and climate. This means

91 percent live on land the area, such as the Alps, will be home to
a unique community of plants and animals.
ANIMAL HABITATS | 11

H A B I TAT S
FO O D C H A I N S

The habitats of the


One way all the plants
Alps are found elsewhere in the
and animals in a habitat interact
world, but here their characteristics
is via a food chain. Plants convert the
are contrasted by large differences in
Sun’s energy into food for growth and
altitude. The grasses and herbs found in
reproduction, and are eaten by
a high alpine meadow, for example, are
herbivorous animals. These in turn
very different from those in
become food for predatory or
a lowland grassland.
scavenging animals.

M O U N TA I N S A N D
SCREE SLOPES
Mountains are effectively
inland islands, where unique
species can live and evolve in
isolation. Slope habitats are
heavily influenced by latitude,
altitude, incline, aspect,
and the underlying rock.
Conditions above the tree E AG L E O W L
line (beyond which no
trees grow) are harsh. The Eurasian eagle
owl is the top predatory bird in
the Alps. It hunts mainly small
mammals, but will also target
other birds of prey.

M O N TA N E
FOREST
Forests on mountains
are banded according to
altitude, with broadleaf trees
dominating the warmer, lower
slopes, and conifers thriving
on higher ground up to the
tree line. Because sloping,
rocky ground is difficult to MARMOT
farm, mountainsides often
retain more tree cover
Alpine marmots spend
than flatter ground.
the summer months feeding on
lush grasses and herbs, building up
fat to help them survive the
long alpine winter.

ALPINE
MEADOW
Where flooding or
unstable ground prevent
trees encroaching, grasses
and herbs flourish in
spectacular diversity. At
high-altitude, there is a sudden
burst of growth in spring and
summer and the meadows
are filled with blooms—an DA N D E L I O N
important food source
for many animals. As well as providing
food for marmots, alpine
dandelions are a welcome source
of nectar for butterflies
and bees.
12 | ANIMAL HABITATS

FORESTS
The lungs of our planet
Roughly one-third of the world’s land area is covered with trees. Some breaking them. By keeping their dark green leaves all year, they can
are the largest and longest-living organisms on Earth. Their roots, trunks, make food whenever the Sun shines. The resin-filled leaves are distasteful
branches, and leaves form an uncountable variety of microhabitats, the to all but a few insects and so are not eaten even when food is scarce.
character of which varies according to location. Dead and decaying leaves Farther south, winters are still cold, but summers are longer and warmer.
and wood also form a vital component of forest ecosystems, providing Forests here are generally deciduous. The trees have broad leaves and
habitat and food, and releasing nutrients back into forest soils. Clearings spreading branches that maximize their ability to harvest light and get
left by fallen trees throng with light-loving ground plants and
insects until new trees close the gap.

Boreal and temperate forests


The wide range of climates in temperate areas
supports coniferous, deciduous, broadleaf
evergreen, and mixed forest. In the far
northern boreal forests, winters are longer,
temperatures lower, and snow fall more
frequent—conditions to which coniferous
trees are well adapted. Their triangular
shape and narrow leaves prevent excess
snow settling on their branches and

T E M P E R AT E
B R OA D L E A F

The seasonal availability of some foods


presents a challenge to woodland animals.
T E M P E R AT E Some, such as grey squirrels, solve the problem
CO N I F E R O U S by hoarding nuts and seeds in tree holes
and underground caches, to which
Nonflowering plants, such as conifers, they return in winter.
produce their seeds in cones, which are
released when dry conditions cause the cones
to open. The tiny seeds of western hemlock
are eaten by chickadees, pine siskins,
and deer mice.

BOREAL

The hardy, evergreen conifers found in


northern boreal forests provide less food than
other trees due to the harsh climate and
short growing season. In winter, when food
is scarce, many animals migrate to
warmer areas or hibernate.

SEYCHELLES ▷
Tropical rainforest
on Silhouette Island,
Seychelles, in the
Indian Ocean.
FORESTS | 13

energy from the Sun. However, such leaves also pose a risk in strong
FOREST DISTRIBUTION
winds and heavy snow, so temperate broadleaf trees tend to produce thin
leaves that are shed in the fall. The trees remain in an almost dormant
Coniferous forests are generally
state all winter and produce new leaves the following spring. found at higher latitudes and
In the most southerly temperate areas, summers are long, hot, and dry, altitudes than temperate
and winters are warm and wet. The broadleaf evergreen forest that grows forests, and the boreal forest
in these climates ranges from the tall eucalypts of Australia to the shorter, belt extends to the edge of the
Arctic tundra. Tropical forests
more open woodland of parts of California and the Mediterranean.
need warmth year-round and
are centered on the equator.
Tropical forests Boreal forest Temperate forest Tropical forest
At the equator, the climate is warm and moist all year round, providing
ideal conditions for plant growth and creating the most diverse of all
terrestrial habitats. Trees and other forest plants grow in profusion the region distinct wet and dry seasons. During the rains the forest
forming vast rainforests, cloud forests, is lush and green but in the dry season, many trees shed their leaves,
and montane forests that are allowing the sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor.
green all year round. In the In areas where there is a long dry season, such as Madagascar and
northern tropics, the forests the Caribbean, tropical and subtropical dry forests are found. Composed
of Southeast Asia are mainly of broadleaved trees that shed their leaves to conserve water
influenced by heavy during dry spells, these forests are less diverse than other tropical
monsoon rains, giving forests. However, they are still home to a diverse community
of animals adapted to cope with the demands of living
in a hot, dry climate.

MEDITERRANEAN

Broadleaf evergreen forest is also known


as Mediterranean forest, and typical trees
include cork oaks, some species of pine, and T R O P I C A L D RY
eucalypts. Cork oaks are a particularly important
habitat, providing food, shelter, and nesting
sites for many species of animal. Trees in tropical dry forests survive the
long dry season by shedding their leaves,
having thick bark, and deep roots that access
groundwater. Many species have thorns or spines
as a deterrent to animals that might try
to feed on them.
TROPICAL
MOIST

The dense canopy of the broadleaf trees


growing in most tropical forests holds most
of the forest’s food. This means that many animals
are adapted to life in the trees and are rarely
seen at ground level. They include scarlet
macaws and spider monkeys.
14 | ANIMAL HABITATS

GRASSLANDS
Little shelter, but plenty of food
Where the climate is too dry to support trees, but wet enough for by the animals that graze on it, grass regrows quickly after it has been
plants to grow, grasses and low-growing herbs dominate the landscape. cropped. This adaptation also allows grass to survive long periods
These plants are highly diverse, and grassland habitats range from the without rain that kill many other plants.
high alpine meadows of Europe to tree-studded African savanna, In the past, grassland covered large tracts of the temperate world, but
tall grass prairies of North America, windswept Asian steppes, seas with the advent of agriculture, much of it has
of head-height grass in India, China, and South America, and the been used for growing crops—often
dry desert scrublands of Australia. Today, they account for about with unforeseen consequences. Grass
40 percent of the land area. is unusual in that it channels most
of its energy into growing roots
Temperate grasslands rather than leaves. This allows
The relatively flat terrain and scarcity of trees in temperate grass to get the water and
grassland gives rise to vast expanses of fairly uniform nutrients it needs and has
landscape across which strong winds can blow unimpeded.
There are fewer habitats than in forests and, as a result,
there are fewer animal species in temperate grassland,
too. Grass is, however, able to support vast numbers of
herbivores because, unusually in plants, its growth point
is below ground level. As it is untouched

T E M P E R AT E
GRASSLAND

Although grasses predominate, many


herbaceous plants also grow in temperate
grassland. Bright flowers attract insects, which in
turn attract insect-eating birds. The grassland
also provides food for mammals of all sizes,
from bison to hares.

M O N TA N E
GRASSLAND

These high-altitude grasslands occur at


all latitudes. The plants and animals that live in
these regions must be able to endure low
temperatures, intense sunlight, and potentially
harmful ultraviolet radiation. They include
the guanaco of South America.

CUSTER STATE PARK ▷


The prairie habitat in
South Dakota, provides
a natural refuge for
a herd of
American
bison.
GRASSLANDS | 15

the side-effect of stabilizing the soil it is growing in. When land such as
GRASSLAND DISTRIBUTION
this is plowed and the grass removed, the soil rapidly deteriorates and is
blown away as dust, leaving only bare earth in its place. The largest temperate
grasslands are the prairies
Tropical grasslands of North America and the
Scattered trees and scrub are a feature of tropical savannas, making them Asian steppes, which stretch
from the far east of Europe to
more diverse than their temperate counterparts. However, they cannot
northern China. Tropical
encroach far because, unlike grass, trees and scrub cannot survive the grasslands include those of
frequent fires that occur during the dry season. Although these fires sub-Saharan Africa and Brazil.
appear destructive, the ash created provides soil nutrients that fuel the
Temperate grasslands Tropical grasslands
growth of fresh grass during the wet season that follows.
While some tropical grasses, such as bamboo and elephant grass,
grow very tall, most savanna grassland provides little cover, making get too close and running away. They do this by living in groups, which
it difficult for both predators and prey to hide. Predators rely on offers safety in numbers, and by relying on their senses.
stealth, speed, and sometimes cooperation to catch their food, Prey animals have eyes on the sides of their heads
whereas prey animals rely on spotting hunters before they for good all around vision, large swiveling ears,
and an excellent sense of smell—hares are
a good example.

SCRUB

In areas with long dry summers such as


California and the Mediterranean, there is a
transition zone between woods and grassland that is TROPICAL
dominated by low, woody shrub vegetation. Also GRASSLAND
called heathland and chaparral, scrub
offers more cover for animals.
These are usually warm year-round, with a
long dry season followed by a short wet season
that sees a spurt of plant growth. African savanna
elephants help to maintain their habitat by eating
woody shrubs and knocking down trees to
feed on their leaves.

WETLANDS

Areas of land that are routinely


inundated by fresh or salt water are often
dominated by grasses, reeds, and sedges, while
water hyacinths form free-floating mats of
vegetation. Wetlands support many
species, particularly birds.
16 | ANIMAL HABITATS

EXTREME ENVIRONMENTS
Survival against the odds
Polar areas and deserts are some of the least hospitable habitats on Earth. south of the equator. It is far more extensive in the northern hemisphere,
The lack of rain and extreme temperatures create difficult conditions for covering large tracts of northern Canada and Russia. Similar areas on
life, and the few humans that live there lead a seminomadic existence. mountains above the tree line are called alpine tundra.
Today, several of these fragile, untouched ecoregions are under threat Polar regions may support a number of large land
because of the discovery of oil, gas, and other minerals. animals, but most are reliant on the sea for their food.
This is because despite the icy conditions, sea life is
Polar regions plentiful. The cold waters of the Arctic and Southern
Much of the Arctic and Antarctica is effectively a desert gripped by ice. oceans are rich in oxygen and the seabed provides
Winters are long and permanently dark and summers
are short but, because the Sun never sets, there is a
continual source of energy for plant growth. Where
rock is exposed, the soil is virtually nonexistent,
and usually at freezing point or below. Trees
cannot survive here, and vegetation is limited
to mosses, lichens, fungi, and a handful
of flowering plants. This open, rather
featureless landscape, called tundra, is
found between 60-80 degrees north and

ALPINE
TUNDRA

Found at altitudes of around 10,000 ft


(3,000 m) with snow above and boreal forest
ARCTIC below, alpine tundra is cold and windy and has
TUNDRA sparse vegetation. Golden eagles hunt there
during the summer as the open ground
The Arctic poppy is one of the few provides little cover for their prey.
flowering plants found on the Arctic tundra.
The short growing season means the plant must
grow, flower, and produce its seeds rapidly.
It is usually pollinated by flies, but can
self-pollinate if necessary.

POLAR

Polar regions may seem inhospitable, but


their icy waters support several specialist
mammal species, including walruses and seals.
Small ice floes and broken pack ice are ideal
habitat for bearded seals, for example, as
they need easy access to the water
to feed.

ANTARCTICA ▷
Snow covers the tundra
on the northeast tip
of the Antarctic
Peninsula
in winter.
EXTREME ENVIRONMENTS | 17

plentiful nutrients. In summer, these oceans provide rich pickings for the
DESERT AND POLAR ICE DISTRIBUTION
many marine mammals and seabirds that migrate to these areas to feed
and breed. The tundra also has summer visitors, such as reindeer that
Deserts in the southern
spend the winter sheltering from the cold in the taiga forest to the south, hemisphere tend to be less
but return each summer. extensive than those in the
north, which include the largest
Desert regions desert of all: the Sahara.
Almost all of Antarctica and
Most of the world’s great hot deserts, such as Africa’s Sahara, are found
most of Greenland in the Arctic
in the subtropics, where dry conditions persist for months at a time. Circle is covered in ice-sheets.
Others, such as the Mojave in the US southwest, are found on the dry
Desert Ice
leeward side of mountains. A few, such as the Atacama Desert in South
America, are coastal and lack rain due to cold offshore water inhibiting
cloud formation. Cold deserts are found desert, which can benefit from early morning fog drifting in from the
in continental interiors and are ocean. Hot deserts, although hot all year, are cold at night as the lack
very hot in summer and very of cloud cover allows heat to escape freely. Cold deserts also have large
cold in winter. All of these daily temperature fluctuations, but in winter, temperatures are below
deserts are dry, receiving freezing and snow is not uncommon.
less than 6 in (15 cm) Plants growing in deserts must cope not only with lack of water and
rain annually, and most extreme temperatures, but also with soils that have little organic matter
are cloudless. The and few soil microorganisms. All desert plants and animals tend to
exception is coastal restrict their reproductive efforts to periods of rainfall and show a range
of adaptations to heat, such as being able to retain or store water,
and many animals forage at night.

CO L D
DESERT

Despite the hostile treeless environment,


limited rainfall, and enormous seasonal
COA S TA L
temperature differences, cold deserts are home to
DESERT
a variety of animals. Small mammals include the
dwarf hamster, large ones the critically
endangered Gobi bear. In the early morning, coastal deserts
benefit from moisture carried inland as fog.
It is an important source of water for a number
of arthropods and reptiles, some of
which have adaptations to enhance water
collection and storage.

H OT
DESERT

Daytime temperatures in hot deserts are


so high that even “cold blooded” arthropods,
which are reliant on the Sun for warmth, seek
shade to avoid the heat. Many animals, such as
the deathstalker scorpion, avoid the Sun
completely by being nocturnal.
18 | ANIMAL H ABITATS

AQUATIC ENVIRONMENTS
Planet Earth is really planet Ocean
More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, which in ranging from fast-flowing rivers and swampy wetlands
its liquid form is essential for life. Water is continually circulating around to the relatively calmer but deeper water of many
the planet, evaporating from its surface and being carried as water vapor lakes. Organisms living in lakes and rivers
in the atmosphere until it falls again as rain. Around 95 percent of the must cope with strong currents, survive
Earth’s water is salt water, which is found in seas, oceans, and coastal freezing conditions in winter, and endure
lagoons as well a few isolated soda and salt lakes. The other summer droughts when some rivers and
5 percent is fresh water, which is seen in rivers and lakes,
but also includes the ice held in polar regions and
glaciers, and groundwater that is hidden from
view. The challenges of life in fresh and salt
water are very different and relatively few
animal species are able to move from one
to the other.

Rivers and lakes


Fresh water is vital for life on land—
without water, plants cannot grow and
animals would have nothing to drink.
Rivers and lakes create diverse habitats

M A N G R OV E S

These wetlands provide safe inshore


nurseries for various marine animals as well as
LAKES breeding sites and roosts for many bird species,
including the scarlet ibis. These wading birds use
their long, curved, sensitive bills to locate
Lakes are often isolated, with little food in the soft mud.
opportunity for new aquatic species to colonize
them (unless introduced by humans). As a result
they may have large numbers of endemic species
or subspecies that have evolved to exploit
the available habitats.

RIVERS

The steeper the gradient of a river, the


faster the water flows and the stronger the
current. More animal species tend to be found
downstream, where slower-flowing water allows
aquatic plants to grow. This increases
the number of habitats.

CALIFORNIA COAST ▷
The sheer power of
a breaking wave in
Monterey Bay, CA,
is revealed.
AQUATIC ENVIRONMENTS | 19

shallow lakes disappear. Plants, including tree species, tend to grow having prop roots for additional support in soft sediment, and the
where water flow is slow along stream and river banks or on islands ability to filter out salt as it enters their roots, or to store it in their leaves
in river channels. However, plants, such as water hyacinth, can cover and lose it when the leaves are shed. Mangrove swamp is the most
large areas of fresh water. Animals may be confined to water—fish, for endangered of the world’s habitats due to large scale removal in recent
example—while others spend only part of their life there, including frogs, years to make way for aquatic farming of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks.
hippopotamuses, and dragonflies. Each species occupies a particular
habitat, and together they create a distinct community unique to that Oceans and seas
particular river or lake. Although the world’s oceans are interconnected, numerous seas, each
with their own distinct characteristics, exist within them. The sunlit
Mangroves upper waters of the ocean have the most organisms, and coral reefs are
Restricted to tropical and subtropical regions, mangrove swamps usually among the most biodiverse. However, ecoregions also exist much deeper,
develop in intertidal areas on muddy shores, although some extend for with food chains based on organic material drifting down from above or
some distance inland. Only mangrove trees can grow successfully in the on bacteria able to manufacture food using chemical reactions that do
waterlogged, salty mud and survive regular inundation by seawater. The not need sunlight. Coastal regions are extremely harsh environments for
different species have various adaptations wildlife as rocks and sandy shores are periodically exposed to the air,
that allow them to do this, including and buffeting by waves can damage and dislodge organisms unless they
are firmly anchored. Oceans support a huge variety of life,
ranging from microscopic algae that underpin oceanic
food chains to the planet’s largest living animal,
the blue whale.

COA S T S

Exposure to the air twice a day and


buffeting by the waves are just two features of
coastlines that make them the most demanding of CO R A L R E E F S
all habitats to live in. On rocky shores, many
animal species have shells for protection
and to retain moisture. Coral reefs provide plenty of food and
hiding places. This means that reef fish are
usually colorful and come in a multitude of shapes
and sizes as, unlike oceanic fish, they do not need
to be streamlined and fast to hunt or
escape from predators.

OPEN OCEAN

Most life in the open ocean is found


at or just below the surface as this is where
most of the food is produced. Despite the
vast expanse of this habitat, only around
5 percent of the world’s animal
species live here.
British Columbia
A young grizzly bear searches for salmon during a
spawning run in a Canadian river. Its mother won’t
be far as cubs don’t become independent until
they are more than two years old.
North America
K E Y DATA

ECOSYSTEMS

Tropical broadleaf forest


PEAKS AND PRAIRIES Tropical dry broadleaf forest
North America Tropical coniferous forest
Temperate broadleaf forest
Temperate coniferous forest
The world’s third largest continent is bordered by a single plate, with small parts of Mexico and Mediterranean woodland, scrub
Tropical, subtropical grassland
22 | NORTH AMERICA

the Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic oceans, and the California lying on the neighboring Pacific plate,
Temperate grassland
Caribbean Sea. Geographically, Greenland and which abuts the North American plate along the
Wetland
the islands of the Caribbean are considered part infamous San Andreas fault. The mountain ranges Desert, scrub Tundra
of North America. Most of the continent occupies of the Western Cordillera have a profound influence Boreal forest/taiga Ice
on the climate of the west side of the continent.
For example, rainshadow deserts form on the AVERAGE RAINFALL AVERAGE TEMPERATURE
CANADIAN SHIELD mountains’ eastern flanks. Smaller, more ancient IN MM °F °C
mountain ranges follow the eastern coast, while 394 10,000 86 30
Extending north from the
68 20
Great Lakes to the Arctic much of the interior of North America is low-lying. 295 7,500
50 10
Ocean is one of the world’s The vast north-south extent of the continent 32 0
largest geologic continental 197 5,000
means it encompasses a wide range of climate 14 -10
shields (exposed Precambrian
98 2,500 -4 -20
crystalline rocks). The rocks types, from Arctic cold to tropical heat. Dominant -22 -30
of the Canadian Shield have
ecosystems include tundra, boreal and temperate 0 0 -40 -40
remained above sea level
for almost 4 billion years. forest, prairie, desert, and extensive wetlands. These
Soils form a thin layer or diverse habitats support an impressive range of
are absent as the rocks have
been scoured by ice during animals, from the largest mammals—American bison
repeated glaciations. and bears—to alligators living in the swamps
and wetlands of the southeast.
d

ALEUTIAN ISLANDS
an

An arc of 69 volcanic islands, largely ARCTIC Gr


Queen Elizabeth
treeless and fogbound, that support an ee
e Isl

Islands
array of plant life and seabird colonies.
nl
OCEAN an
rait d
g St
rin
Be
Ellesmer

B
ro
o
Be a uf o rt Baffi n
k
Pa r r y I
B eri n g s
slands
R S ea Bay
S ea an Banks
Yu ge Island D
kon av
is
Baf
Mount fin St
McKinley Victoria Is ra
(Denali) la
6,194m
M

Island nd it
M
ack

ac
ke Great Bear
n Lake
zi
enzie

Al
e

eu
M

tia
ou

n Is
nt

lands
Kodiak
ain
s

Island
Gulf of
L a b r a d or
Alaska Hudson S t r a i t Sea
Great Slave
Lake
Péninsule
L
a
R o

PAC I F I C d’Ungava b
Lake ra
c

Athabasca do
OCEAN H ud son r
Queen Bay
ns

Charlotte Reindeer
ai

k y

Islands Lake
nt

ou
M
an Newfoundland

C
North Saska ti

n
tc
h

re
Lake
a

ew
d

an
Manitoba n

Lau
Lake l
W E S T E R N CO R D I L L E R A

S ou
Winnipeg a e

th
Vancouver S aska d i

M
tche wan
Island
i a S h
n
This chain of mountain ranges includes
ia

o
ot

c
Sc

the Coastal Ranges, Rocky Mountains,

en
va

u
wr
and Sierra Nevada, and runs southeast

a
No

Yellow

tL
from Alaska to western Mexico. Most

n
Mount stone
Lake Superior S
St Helens
of it formed millions of years ago as an 2,549m

t
G r e a t
ancient oceanic plate moved under the Lake
Lake

a
N O R T H L a k e s Huron
North American plate. This ancient plate Ontario

i
Cape Cod

Missouri
has now almost completely disappeared. Niagara
Lake Falls

n
G r
subducting continental (North Great Snake Michigan
Lake

s
oceanic plate American) plate Erie s
Basin
mountain A M E R I C A
Great
ain
range

e a t
s
Salt

Sierr
oi
Pla

o
nt

Lake tte

in
hi

aN
O
ATLANTIC

Ill
ou

ev
M

ad
a
n

Mt Whitney

Coas
Kansas
4,418m o
OCEAN
ia

ad

t Ra
or

n
ch

Death Valley ol

C
e

-88m
la

Grand

ges
pi
dg

Colorado ee
s

Mojave n
Ri

es

Canyo

ssip
pp

Desert Plateau
nn
ue

P l a i n s
Te

Ark
a Bl
a

Missi
ns
a m APPALACHIANS

s
ba

GRAND CANYON Red Ri


ver The oldest mountains
Ala

Carved by the passage of the Colorado River over in North America


17 million years, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles Sonoran
Desert include the Great
(446 km) long and up to 1 mile (1.8 km) deep. Smoky and Blue Ridge
ranges. The region is

Ba
largely forested and has

ja
TO R N A D O A L L E Y
rivers rich in fish and

Sie
Ri
invertebrates.

Ca
oG

rra
r

l
Late spring on the lowlands Mississippi
Lake Okeechobee

an

Si
Delta

Gu

if
de

Ma
er
of the Midwestern prairies,

lf

o
The

ra
Everglades

d re

of
where there are no mountains

rn
da

O
ri

Ma
to block air flow, creates

Ca
o

ia
li
cci
the perfect conditions for Fl

d re

d
Str
aits of

fo
Gulf of Mexico

en
tornadoes to form. These

rn
Ori

ta

ia
l
are columns of violently
rotating air that develop Caribbean Sea
enta
l

within storm clouds and are


in contact with the ground.
D E A N ’ S B LU E H O L E
The most powerful tornadoes
Lago de Yu ca t a n
occur almost exclusively in Chapala Pen í n su l a
North America. Located in the Bahamas, the
world’s deepest salt water blue
Si
err hole plunges to depths of 663 ft
aM
adr (202 m). A blue hole is a water-
e de
l Sur filled sinkhole formed by rainwater
F E AT U R E D ECO R EG I O N S
seeping into limestone bedrock.
The entrance is now underwater.
Canadian Arctic ›› p24–33
Tundra, ice
Yellowstone ›› p34–43
Temperate coniferous forest
Central Great Plains ›› p44–51
Temperate grassland GULF OF CALIFORNIA
Also known as the Sea of Cortés,
Sierra Nevada ›› p52–59
Temperate coniferous forest the Gulf of California lies between
the west coast of mainland Mexico
Mojave Desert ›› p60–65
and the peninsula of Baja
Desert, scrub
California. Around 800 species of
PEAKS AND PRAIRIES

Florida Everglades ›› p66–73


fish are found in the gulf, but they
Wetland: flooded grassland, mangrove
are threatened by overfishing.
| 23

BLUE DAMSELFISH
24 | NORTH AMERICA

CANADIAN ❯
ne
ARCTIC
N
CT
ER
ri
ma
I
CT
AR e
ar
1 7
A far northern place r e,
he
of ice and snow

s
ie
ec
LON
G-D

sp
fur The IST
The Canadian Arctic includes one of the world’s the Arc T AN
r th tic RAVE CE

al
the an tern LER
largest archipelagos—36,563 islands, most b et p a
wee lanet ny an travels

mm
n it as i ima
of which are uninhabited by people. are sA tm l on
Ma as an rctic b igrate

ma
The easternmost islands are mountainous, so u
ny
Arc d the ree
din
s
t A
becoming lower lying in the west. For much car th to a ic anim ntarct g
ib v a ic
e q u o u m a o i d t h e l s h ea .

6
of the long, dark winter, land and sea are ally ke a d

Of 3
win
tu n a s t
dra rduou horte er—
bound in a vast ice-scape, broken only by reg s
ion trip to but
r
s of
rocky island peaks and occasional polynyas Can the
ada
—areas of sea that freeze late and thaw .


early. Polynyas are a vital resource for
marine mammals including belugas and

summer
MOTHER AND PUP
bowhead whales, which use them as
breathing holes, and for seals and
polar bears, which need to
access the water from the sea
sets in
ED SEAL

ice. In summer, strong tides


sweep the channels between
HOOD

the islands.
e r
ev

Frozen ground
n

On land, the top three feet of soil thaws IFE


N L ed
un

briefly in summer, but the ground beneath is T I e


AR ls f t
ST sea k tha
eS

permanently frozen (permafrost). Plant life U G H


d e d
m i l
a se
TO hoo -rich incre lb
is limited to mosses, lichens, and around 200 orn er to 5–100 ur
h

wb sup m o
Ne on s the om 5 just f eir
—t

species of grass, sedge, hardy forbs, and dwarf


ble ht fr ) in at, th to
n

a
shrubs. Land mammals able to withstand the en weig 5 kg r th sea
Su

ir o4 te e up
cold include caribou, muskoxen, Arctic foxes, and the (25 t ys. Af to th ach p nd
da turn ed. E ive, a es.
t
gh

re fe ,d rv
lemmings. The number of invertebrate species is t h ers and swim it sta i
e
low, but mites and springtails become mo mat rn to efore n
ea tb id
st l hun W
OO
superabundant in summer, providing food for mu D
M
FR e
breeding migrant birds such as Arctic terns, OG th
ivory gulls, common eiders, and red phalaropes. d of
n a
i s aL
Th i s
e wi ZE


lood er
and
E

Melting of the permafrost


t

syru a prot heir ce vive,


dorm rogs pa R FRE
n

ll
tras e by th glucose
lls fu

ent eeze p cod ha In


r blo oteins ve
ur

reez at
.
ss th

anti t, Arct e liver

ing.
s

releases methane and


TE

th
b
pum lid. To
r
WIN

thei

ad ctive
t

ic

od f
so

carbon, increasing the


ant,

p
e

r
n
df

e
froz
Woo

pm
they

rate of global warming


thei
of

fr
skin

con
prev
CANADIAN ARCTIC | 25

LO C AT I O N

BAND n
ED ca The northernmost parts of
WOO h by
❯ Inclu
L LY
BEA
t
o t i c I ts the Canadian mainland and
des R
D e r m Arc le. the islands, comprising part
c
one AN tig gh cy ars ed of the Northwest Territories
W Y l la Hi life pill d fe hey nt.
of O AD be he er n , t a and the mostly Inuit territory
SL TE Isa in t long cat er a ter rm for g
th S he d a r m in do ss tin of Nunavut.
e T ree ng bea um In w lie oce upa at
wo i
b av lly s h. d pr p th
h oo h in ont d an he ore lts
rl w tc m oli t t bef adu ys. Gr
d’ ha r a e s pea rs as da ee
s fo eez re yea ng ew n
fr ey 14 rgi a f
ICELAND

la
la Th to me nly

nd
up d e r o
rg an e fo
es liv
ta
rc
H uds o n
hip
Bay
C A N A D A 0 km 1000
ela
Edmonton
Vancouver 0 miles 1000
gos
ARC

C L I M AT E
TIC
HA

Temperatures are very low all year, only rising


RE

above 32°F (0°C) for 6–10 weeks in summer.


Average annual temperatures are well below
freezing, and virtually all precipitation falls
B i rd s c o m e t o t h e

as snow.

°F °C (Igloolik, Nunavut) MM IN
86 30 60 2 1⁄4

68 20 40 1 1⁄2
WINT
ER W 50 10 20 3
⁄4
Like o HIT
ther A EOUT
mam rctic 32 0 0 0
m lan
has e als, the Ar d
xcept ctic h 14 -10
which io nally are
t de
to the raps warm nse fur, -4 -20
s a
its ran kin. In the ir close
C

ge in south -22 -30


a

Newf
hares
molt ound of
nad

brow in lan
n sum to a gray- d, -40 -40
nor th mer c
Jan
Feb

Sep
Oct
Nov
Apr

Jul
Mar

May

Aug

Dec
Jun
,w oat. F
neglig here the ur the
i

th r
a

ib Key
white le, they st aw is Average temperature Rainfall
n

all ye ay win
ar. ter
Ar

G E T T I N G WA R M E R
c

FI
tic

S
Ar H O The Arctic is warmer now than at any time
co ctic F T
to

th mm cod HE in the last 40,000 years, and the extent and


Th e di erc are DAY duration of sea ice reduces every year. In 2007,
br

be ey a ets o ially no the Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic and


e

ed na low re f o , bu t fis Pacific remained ice free for the first time in


,b bi rwh by targ the t fe hed
m rds als sea ete r pre atur recorded history. This change in conditions can
th urr suc , an ls, b d fr da e in
ut have profound effects on the growth of plankton,
le th an es, w h a d fr elu om tors on which all marine life ultimately depends.
eir 33 s o g .
av wi 0 f hich guil m a as, a The sea ice is vital to polar bears, which need
eb ng t ( d lem bo n
s t 100 ive ot ve d it for hunting and breeding.
o“
fly m), to m s, or by
e fo
re w ” u us or
i n te r nd ing e
D er
❯ CO wa
TIC te
r.
ARC
26 | NORTH AMERICA
curved horns
almost meet in
middle of skull

Muskox
Ovibos moschatus
6—8 ft (1.9—2.3 m)
One of the few large mammals to roam the Arctic year
440—900 lb (200—410 kg)
round, the muskox is highly adapted to the cold. Its
Locally common
thick undercoat is covered by a coarse cloak of guard
Sedges, grasses, leaves
hairs over 24 in (60 cm) long, giving the animal its
shaggy appearance. Its short, stocky legs and large
hooves provide good traction on snow. The horns are
used in defense and in dominance battles among bulls.

Musky males
Muskox herds are usually mixed-sex and can have
10 to more than 100 animals, although some bulls form N. North
bachelor herds or remain solitary. Herds are smaller from America,
July to September, when dominant bulls control breeding Greenland
harems of females. The bulls give off a musky odor
during the mating season, giving the animal its name.
▷ FACING THE ENEMY
Muskox feed in lowland areas in summer, eating When threated by predators such as
flowers in addition to their usual diet. In winter, they wolves or a polar bear, muskoxen
move to higher ground for easier foraging. form a circle and face outward.

Fighting bulls’ collisions can be


heard up to 1 mile (1.6 km) away

▽ COLOR VARIATION
4—7 ft (1.2—2.2 m)
265—660 lb (120—300 kg)
Endangered
High Arctic subspecies, such as the
Peary caribou (R. t. pearyi), are smaller
and lighter colored than caribou living at
Caribou
Leaves, roots, bark, lichen
lower latitudes. Both male and female
caribou have antlers that they shed Rangifer tarandus
and regrow each year.
branching Caribou (known as reindeer in Europe) are well adapted
antlers
to life in the Arctic tundra. They have a dense coat and a
broad muzzle that warms frigid air before it reaches the
lungs. Caribou are strong swimmers, with broad, flat
hooves. These provide stability on soft summer
ground and act as snowshoes in winter,
N. North America, N. Europe, becoming harder and sharper-edged—ideal for
outer coat of wool-like hair
N. Asia provides extra insulation cutting through snow and ice. Despite their
broad hooves, they can run at up to 50 mph
(80 km/h). They can see ultraviolet light, which
helps them locate lichens and snow-covered
vegetation on dark winter days.

On the move
Caribou are almost constantly on the
move. Some migrate 3,000 miles
(5,000 km) in a year—the longest distance
any land mammal travels. Herds can be up to
half a million strong, with smaller single-sex groups
coming together to migrate during spring and fall.
Males fight for control of harems of females in fall and
the females give birth to a single calf in the next spring.
muzzle insulated
by fur

stout, rounded body


under thick pelt

Arctic fox
Alopex lagopus
Incredibly well-adapted to its harsh environment in the
Arctic Circle, the Arctic fox can survive temperatures as
low as -58˚F (-50˚C). Its dense fur is a few inches thick
during winter, insulating its short ears, muzzle, and
even the soles of its feet, which allows it to walk on
ice without slipping. In winter, most Arctic foxes grow
a white coat (some turn a steely blue) that lets them
blend into the snow.

Varied diet
Although it feeds on smaller mammals such as lemmings,
voles, and Arctic hares in summer, in winter the Arctic
fox may dig out seal pups from their under-ice birth
chambers. It will also follow polar bears and wolves to
feed on carcasses they leave behind. The Arctic fox is the
most common predator of Arctic birds such as snow
geese, but also eats fish, eggs, seaweed, and berries.
Mainly solitary, Arctic foxes may congregate around
carrion or fresh kills, and regularly raid garbage dumps
in northern Alaska. When not hunting, the Arctic fox
curls up in underground burrows during summer, while
in winter it tunnels into snow banks to escape blizzards.
Females give birth in spring to litters of as many as 14
kits, or pups. Both parents raise their young until around
August, when the family group disperses.

△ HUNTING IN

The Arctic fox has the warmest pelt THE SNOW


The Arctic fox listens for
movement below, then
of any animal found in the Arctic leaps into the air before
plunging head-first to the
ground. This force breaks
through the snow to the
21—22 in (53—55 cm) prey beneath.
9 lb (4 kg)
Common
Small mammals, fish, birds

◁ SUMMER COAT
Arctic foxes’ white coats
thin and change color
to gray-brown in
summer to match
N. Canada, Alaska, Greenland, surrounding rocks and
N. Europe, N. Asia low-growing vegetation
of the tundra.
28 | NORTH AMERICA

▷ AT HOME
Snow dens protect young cubs from
the cold. The dens have one entrance
and often several chambers, and can
be up to 40 degrees warmer than
outside temperatures.

▷▷ STRONG SWIMMER
A polar bear’s broad, partially webbed
forepaws make it a superb swimmer,
capable of covering up to 60 miles
(100 km) at a stretch, at speeds
of 6 mph (10 km/h).
CANADIAN ARCTIC | 29

small ears to
minimize heat loss

longer neck

Polar bear than other


bears

Ursus maritimus
The polar bear vies with the brown bear for the title of carcasses. In fall, polar bears also gather together in
the world’s largest living land carnivore. It is classified “transition” areas such as southwestern Hudson Bay
as a marine mammal, and its preferred hunting ground and Churchill, Canada to wait for the sea ice to form
is Arctic pack ice. Superbly adapted to its environment, that allows them access to ringed seals swimming
the polar bear has non-retractable claws and dimpled, beneath the ice.
partially furred foot pads that provide extra grip, Polar bear territories are vast. Bears closest to
allowing it to walk and run easily on ice. the Canadian Arctic Islands have an average range
The polar bear’s body is covered in double-layered of 19,000–23,000 sq miles (50,000–60,000 sq km),
fur—the thickest of any bear species. The inner layer is but those closer to the Bering Sea can cover up to
a dense undercoat, while the outer fur consists of clear, 135,000 sq miles (350,000 sq km).
hollow tubes that trap air for insulation. Since the tubes
reflect all visible light, the outer coat makes polar bears Winter births
seem white, allowing them to blend easily into snowy Polar bears give birth to cubs every two to three years
environments. Their skin is black and rests on a layer —one of the lowest reproductive rates of all mammals.
of blubber up to 4 in (10 cm) thick. Mating occurs from late March through May, but
embryos may not start to develop until fall. Pregnant
Feasting and fasting females must gain about 440 lb (200 kg) extra weight
Polar bears can live up to 25–30 years in the wild. Their during summer to survive the winter, when they may
lives alternate between feasting and fasting, and their have to go up to eight months without food. They dig
intestines are adapted to process fat, which is easier to maternity dens mainly in south-facing snowdrifts,
digest than meat and has more calories. They can also where between one and four cubs are born in early
slow their metabolic rate when food is scarce. Their winter. Most litters are of twins.
main diet is seals, but they occasionally hunt belugas or The adult female does not hibernate in the truest
narwhals. When starving, they will also hunt walruses, sense, but maintains a much warmer body temperature
but the risk of injury is high. They can smell prey up to to care for her cubs. Even so, she neither eats, urinates,
3
/4 mile (1 km) away, or up to 31/4 ft (1 m) beneath ice. nor defecates during the months she is in the den.
Polar bears are generally solitary, except for breeding Mother and cubs do not emerge from their den until
pairs or mothers with cubs. However, they will March or early April, when she leads them toward
congregate around large food supplies such as whale the sea ice in order to hunt.

Polar bears are capable 6—9 ft (1.8—2.8 m)


880—1,500 lb (400—680 kg)
of running as fast as an Vulnerable
Seals, fish, birds, vegetation
Olympic sprinter

◁ MOCK BATTLE
Young males often engage in playfighting—
sparring and trying to push each other over while Arctic Ocean, N. Canada,
standing on their hind legs. Some of these males N. Russia
may travel together for weeks or even years.
30 | NORTH AMERICA

tusk grows
through
upper lip

Narwhal
Monodon monoceros
Narwhals are unique among whales in having a single
long tusk, which is grown mostly by males. The tusk is,
in fact, an elongated canine tooth that erupts mainly
from the left side of the animal’s upper jaw. It grows
in a counterclockwise spiral, and is believed to be the
reality behind the unicorn legends of medieval Europe.
While scientists once believed that the tusk’s
function was purely defensive, relating to dominance
disputes over mating rights, recent research has
revealed millions of nerve endings at the tusk’s surface.
These nerve endings allow the narwhal to detect
changes in water pressure and temperature, as well as
degrees of water salinity (saltiness). This discovery
suggests that the characteristic rubbing of tusks by
males may be a sensation- or information-seeking
exercise—not simply “jousting.” Tusks can grow to over
8 ft (2.5 m) long and are highly flexible, bending up to
1 ft (30 cm) in any direction without breaking. If a tusk
is broken, new growth repairs the damage.

Super pods
Sociable animals, narwhals form small groups that
often merge with others to form “super pods” of
hundreds of whales. Individuals communicate by clicks,
squeaks, and other vocalizations. Pods migrate each
year, spending winters in and around the pack ice of
the Arctic Ocean, and summers closer inland in bays or
deep fjords. Their diet consists mainly of fish, such as
halibut and cod, supplemented by squid.

△ TIGHT SQUEEZE
Restricted space can
cause pods of narwhals
to merge as they swim
along narrow channels
that have opened in
the sea ice.

Narwhals can dive


▷ UNICORNS OF
to remarkable depths, THE SEA
Male narwhals surface
some reaching with their tusks pointing
skyward. The dark

5,900 ft (1,800 m) staining is caused by


algal growth.
CANADIAN ARCTIC | 31

Beluga small, rounded


Delphinapterus leucas flippers

The beluga is the only whale that is white in color blubber makes up 40 percent of its body mass.
when adult, a feature that helps it to hide from Every summer it molts, shedding the outer layer
predators among the sea ice. If chased, the absence of skin, partially by raking its body over pebbles in
of a dorsal fin allows the beluga to escape by shallow waters. Highly social mammals, belugas
swimming away beneath the ice. It is also able to are also extremely vocal—their wide repertoire of
move its head up and down and from side to side clicks, whistles, chirps, and squeals has earned
because its neck vertebrae are unfused. Thick them the nickname “canaries of the sea.”

▷ BLOWING BUBBLES
Belugas amuse 10—15 ft (3—4.6 m)
themselves by blowing Up to 1.8 tons (1.6 metric tons)
bubble rings and then
Near threatened
biting them. They may
also produce bubbles if Fish, squid, shrimp
alarmed or surprised.

Arctic Ocean

Harp seal
Pagophilus groenlandicus
Named for their markings, harp seals are the most successful of all
northern hemisphere seals, with numbers estimated at 8 million. 6 ft (1.8 m)
Most inhabit icy northern waters, but some have migrated as far 286 lb (130 kg)
south as Virginia in the US and France. Mating occurs on pack ice in Common
winter, and single pups are born from late February to mid March. Fish, krill
Fast-moving on ice, harp seals are also good swimmers. Excellent
eyesight and hearing make them formidable hunters, and also alert
12—16 ft (3.7—5 m)
them to predators such as polar bears.
Up to 2 tons (1.8 metric tons)
Near threatened black head
Fish, squid markings of adult ▽ HARP-SHAPED MARKINGS
The dark markings on the sides of this
adult seal curve upward to meet over
the shoulders, forming a harp shape.

Arctic Ocean, North Atlantic

backward-directed
hind flippers
Arctic Ocean
32 | NORTH AMERICA

oversized
canine tooth

rough, heavily
creased skin

Walrus
Odobenus rosmarus
This large marine mammal has a wide snout covered in
hundreds of stiff, whiskerlike bristles called vibrissae,
which help it to locate its food. Mollusks, such as mussels,
are favorite foods, but walruses will eat the carcasses of
young seals, usually when other food items are scarce.

The song of the walrus


Walruses travel in groups and “haul out” on land or ice.
Females generally follow pack ice south in fall and north
in spring, but most males stay all year in herds in the
southern Arctic, only joining the females to mate. Bulls
compete for mating locations by performing visual
displays and intricate “songs,” and also spar with their
tusks. A successful bull will mate with several cows
between December and March, and the females give
birth to a single calf in spring the following year.
The average lifespan of walruses in the wild is
40 years. They can withstand icy conditions because
of their thick skin and the presence of vast amounts
of blubbery fat around their shoulders and neck.

A walrus can slow


its heartbeat to
survive in icy water

8—12 ft (2.4—3.7 m)
Up to 2.2 tons (2 metric tons)
Not known
Mollusks, octopuses, fish

△ TOOTH PICKS
Walruses use their tusks in ▷ COLD COMFORT
defense and also as handy Normally cinnamon-brown,
“ice picks” that help them walruses may turn pale after a
pull themselves onto ice long stay in icy water as blood
floes or land. They punch vessels in their skin constrict
breathing holes through ice to save body heat. In warmer
with their tusks, which grow weather, some walruses look
about 1/2 in (1 cm) a year pink as their vessels dilate Arctic Ocean and coasts
throughout their lives. to get rid of excess heat.
CANADIAN ARCTIC | 33

mature male

Snowy almost pure


white Snow goose
Chen caerulescens

owl Snow geese breed in the


extreme north of Arctic North 27—33 in (69—84 cm)
Nyctea scandiaca America and migrate through
western, central, and eastern
5—8 lb (2.3—3.6 kg)
Common
states to winter in the far south. Grass, roots, seeds
The snowy owl is a creature of the extremes, living in the Hundreds of thousands of them
High Arctic tundra. It is equipped with exceptionally stop to feed at regular “service North America; Wrangel
thick plumage for insulation against the cold, the old stations,” with large, noisy Island, Russia
males as white as a swan. Unusually among owls, flocks making a spectacular
females look different, with more dark spots and bars. sight. Despite the
danger of being shot,
Winter wanderings they thrive on
Snowy owls mostly feed on lemmings, surviving the agricultural land,
long, dark Arctic winter and the extreme cold so long as and they are black-tipped
long wings
they have food to eat. If food is scarce, they move south wings
highly sociable.
with regular winter migrations into central Canada and
Siberia. Hundreds of snowy owls go farther south every
few years as the populations of different lemming
species boom and bust. Occasionally, they reach
as far as Florida. Snowy owls breed every four
or five years, with clutches of 3–13 eggs,
and have barren years in between,
▷ BRILLIANT WHITE
so populations vary enormously. Snow geese are found in two color
forms: brilliant white (pictured) and
blue-gray with a white head.

21—28 in (53—71 cm)


2—6 lb (1—2.7 kg)
Common

Arctic char
Small mammals, birds

Salvelinus alpinus

Adapted to deep water and extreme cold, Arctic char


are the most northerly of freshwater fish. A migratory,
river-breeding form lives in the sea, and there is also a
N. North America, NE. Europe, landlocked lake form. Spawning occurs at 39.2˚F (4˚C).
and N. Asia Females scrape shallow nests, or redds, to lay their eggs
in clean gravel.

Up to 38 in (97 cm)
Up to 27 lb (12.3 kg)
Common
Insects, crustaceans

▷ GRACEFUL FLIER
N. North America,
“Snowies” are huge owls, N. Europe, N. Asia,
flying low and silently and Arctic Ocean
between regular lookout
perches on long, powerful,
pointed wings.
▷ FIGHTING MALES
During breeding season,
males become aggressively
heavily territorial. They develop
feathered hooked jaws and sport
legs and toes brilliant red undersides.
3 4 | NORTH AMERICA

YELLOWSTONE TS
PR
IN GS
ye a
r ❯
America’s forested T TH
H O

e ve
r y
ge he ER s
geothermal wilderness ot loc MA
ex he al t or
te rm ize L A
si
all per nde al h d e CTI
w ow iod d p ea ffe VIT vi
wh inte ing s, th lan t in cts Y n
lio
t c o
ro ere r—an biso inne -gro lud f
un w n w e
Lying within the South Central Rockies d. ate d ice to r sn ing

il
Th rfo -f gra ow

m
o r
ecoregion and dominated by coniferous forest, e
he rgan also ho wl f ee l ze in

ism h t s eed ake

3
at
Yellowstone was home to Native Americans for to tol o p r
gr era s wh me ings year ,
s
11,000 years. Eighty percent of Yellowstone’s ow n
c os to m a
re


in es e r
dis ca an icro
forests consist of lodgepole pine, a tree so- tin use ge -
tiv o
e b the f

e rs
named because its straight trunk is ideal for an m
ds
use as tipi poles. .

eys
Yellowstone was established as a national

0g
park in 1872—the first in the US and the
world—and remains one of the largest, with

r wa t e r fa l l s a n d 5 0
more than 3,500 sq miles (9,000 sq km)

TH
of mostly pristine wilderness. The

MILLER MO
region is one of the last strongholds of
American bison, and the reintroduction
of the gray wolf in 1995 allows park
managers to claim the area as the
largest intact ecoregion in the
northern temperate zone. The
potentially damaging impacts of
majo

logging, hunting, and tourism are


regulated, but not always successfully. ST
H FEA r
T le
MO of m l y i
0

n s r m
Hot springs and geysers illi o as a
5

o
m er, m known grate t
n3

Around 1,700 species of plant live in the u m o


In s hs (als oths) o feed st
m i in
o t m e t va
forests, meadows, and upland grasslands of m
wor
m ston Their izzly
a

cut Yellow dows. gr to


th

the park, which also boasts mountains, lakes, a act


e me rs attr me up us
n
rivers, and canyons. Yellowstone is also famous alpi umbe consu utritio es
e

n n li
hich the rizz
or

for being the world’s largest center of geothermal e a rs, w 00 of . The g lse for
b 0 e .
40, s a day n little onths
M

activity—it has around half of the known c t o e m


inse en live o thre
geothermal features on the planet, including the oft up t

Old Faithful geyser. People also visit the park in


the hope of seeing animals such as grizzly and al
W
HI

EB m
T

black bears and American beavers, whose tree- AR


K am
PI
felling and stream-damming activities renew NE fm
o
habitats such as pools, swamps, and meadows. ies
p e c
67 s ❯
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nutc ow to s depen bark
con acker p rvive. C on a
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inat
ITEB

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ied

bird en cac est the

m
o
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they which
t
WH

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produces columns of steam


r
fore

rv
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can
n

,
s
s
Ope

et

and water every 67 minutes


cr

forg
r

th
e

the
YELLOWSTONE | 35

dam sts we year hat


n
s

i n c a g e d e b e i n i ts
i
the Yello wolve
wit 920s stone
w nt t

to r king a articu ers of


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The national park lies

piti
fore

are
❯ primarily within the

r
Th e

ves
western US state of

e
wo r

tro
l d ’s Wyoming. It is part of the

con
South Central Rockies
fir
st ecoregion.
na
tio
na M o n t a n a
l

W
AP
pa

IT
I
rk
,e Wyoming
st
ab
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B E GINN are ada
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epol ccas n
Lodg e with o rees bur 0 km 50
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c Th e t l y
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res. igh e
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0 miles 50
wildfi y, but th quire th
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rapid cones e to m eals C L I M AT E
e d fi r
clo s wil d hat s s
of a lue t
1 8 72

d
heat sinous g the see
e re s i n g e w ly Yellowstone experiences a cool, temperate
th a en
, rele in th climate, with cool summers and long, cold
them minate
r
to ge d area. winters. Precipitation is evenly spread
re throughout the year, falling as heavy snow
c l ea

between November and March.


Ye ll o w s to n e’s

°F °C (West Yellowstone, Montana) MM IN


104 40 80 3 1⁄4
LODGEPOLE P

86 30 60 2 1⁄4

68 20 40 1 1⁄2

3
50 10 20 ⁄4
INE

32 0 0 0
su

14 -10
per

-4 -20 Jan
Feb

Sep
Oct
Nov
Apr

Jul
Mar

May

Aug

Dec
Jun
vo

Key Average temperature Rainfall


anlc

S U P E RVO LC A N O
o

TO
Na O M
st i

sla me UC Around 640,000 years ago, a massive volcano


jaw sh d fo H C erupted, which caused it to collapse and form the
h

th , cu of s r th OM
e

P giant Yellowstone Caldera. The supervolcano


di reat tth carl e d ET
on

beneath the caldera is still active, and the caldera


fro sea ene roa et o ram ITIO
in m se, d b t tr n t atic N is closely monitored for signs of increasing
l

y
on Th trod oth and y h out he l activity. Between 1,000 and 2,000 earthquakes
se os uc er co abi are ow and tremors are recorded in the area every year.
ar par e in ed f fish mp tat er
e
th e a ate Ye or sp etit los
on
lan a e d ke su llo sp ec ion s,
th nd o iets y c bsp wst ort ies
di de i s s o om e on fis
nt cli fish pre f b po cies e a hin
he ne w y, s ald ne . T re g.
U T i n o u o t ea n t h e a
wo r l RO th ld he gl of y
TT es als d es
OA
❯ d e e
-T HR bi o le clin
CUT rd ad e
ONE so t o
WST fp oa f
Y ELLO re
y.
36 | NORTH AMERICA

dish-shaped face

long front claws

Grizzly
bear
Ursus arctos horribilis
All grizzlies are brown bears, but not all brown bears
are grizzlies. This subspecies gets its name from its
light-tipped fur, yet not all are “grizzled”—their coats
range from whitish-blond to almost black. Their
shoulder “hump” consists of muscles that make them
efficient diggers and capable of inflicting strong blows
with their forepaws.
Despite its often fearsome reputation, the bulk of a
grizzly bear’s diet comprises nuts, grasses, roots, seeds,
and moths. Much of the meat they eat comes from
carrion, but they hunt mammals ranging from ground
squirrels to moose. Grizzlies prefer coniferous forests
broken by fields and meadows with access to rivers.
Good swimmers, they are skilled at catching trout,
bass, and salmon.

Grizzly threat
Grizzlies mate in late spring to early summer. The
female gives birth to up to four cubs, usually while
hibernating, nursing them in her den until April or
May. Cubs stay with their mothers for two to four years,
and the main threat to youngsters is from adult male
grizzlies. Once common throughout the western US,
grizzlies now occur in small numbers only in Idaho,
Montana, Washington state, and Wyoming, with larger
populations in Alaska and Canada.

△ FOOD FIGHT
5—8 ft (1.5—2.4 m) Grizzlies are powerful
132—727 lb (60—330 kg) bears and competition
for the best fishing spot
Locally common
can cause a fight to
Berries, roots, carrion, fish break out. However, most
will stop before a serious
injury occurs.

◁ WHO’S THE DADDY?


Female grizzlies will
mate with several males
in a breeding season
and the cubs in the
NW. North America resulting litter may
have different fathers.
YELLOWSTONE | 37

large, sensitive ears


help detect prey powerful,
long legs

Gray wolf
Canis lupus
▷ BUILT FOR STAMINA
An adult gray wolf may range
Despite its name, the gray wolf can be black, brown, up to 45 miles (70 km) in a day
gray, or almost white. All gray wolves are pack predators, and can run at top speeds of up
hunting large hooved mammals such as elk, deer, and to 45 mph (70 km/h).
caribou, and smaller prey such as rabbits and beavers.
They also feed on carrion, particularly in winter.
An average wolf pack has seven to eight adults ruled
3—5 ft (1—1.5 m)
by an alpha male and female. The alpha pair leads hunts, large feet
35—132 lb (16—60 kg)
establishes territory, and chooses den sites, reinforcing and claws
Common
the pack’s bonds through vocalizations such as barks
Elk, deer, rabbits, carrion
and howls. The alphas mate from January to March.
After about three months, the female bears a litter of
four to seven pups. The pack nurtures the pups until they
are about 10 months old, when some will leave, traveling
up to 500 miles (800 km), in search of other wolves.

Successful reintroduction
The light gray Rocky Mountain wolf subspecies
(C. l. irremotus) was reintroduced to Yellowstone N. North America, Each wolf has its own
in 1995. Since the wolves’ return, elk and deer are Europe, Asia
more mobile, letting trees and grassland regenerate. signature howl

26—43 in (66—109 cm)


9—34 lb (4—15.4 kg)
Common
Bobcat
Rabbits, rodents, birds Lynx rufus
What the bobcat lacks in tail length it makes up in
numbers. More bobcats live in North America than any
other native cat species—estimates put the figure at
more than a million. Also the most widely distributed
cat, it is found as far north as British Columbia.

Adaptable cat
The secret to this tough little cat’s success is
S. Canada, US, Mexico adaptability. It prefers dense forests, but can easily
survive in swamps, mountains, and deserts. Recently,
it has added suburban and urban terrain to its habitats.
This often brings it into conflict with humans, as it
preys on domestic pets and small livestock. In the wild,
rabbits form a large part of a bobcat’s diet, but it also
hunts rodents, birds, beavers, and small deer, mainly at
dawn and dusk. At other times, it rests in dens hidden
▷ WINTER FREEZE in thickets, hollow trees, or rocky crevices.
Bobcats are more often seen in Like most cat species, the bobcat is solitary except
daylight hours during winter, when during the mating season from December to April.
food is scarce. They are ambush
predators, with markings that
After about a two-month gestation period, females give
allow them to blend in with birth to litters of about three cubs, which remain with
their surroundings. their mothers for eight months.
38 | NORTH AMERICA

◁ PALMATE ANTLERS

Wolverine Male moose grow a new


set of their massive
antlers every summer.

Gulo gulo These have a covering


of soft skin, or “velvet,”
which is shed by autumn,
the mating season.
Known as the glutton, albeit
unfairly, the wolverine satisfies 26—41 in (65—105 cm)
its voracious appetite by killing 13—40 lb (6—18 kg)
prey as big as deer. Its strong Common
jaws rip open the toughest hides Deer, hare, birds, fruit
and crush the biggest bones in
search of marrow. Although it is
in fact a huge weasel, its heavy
fur, sturdy legs, and large feet
give the wolverine a bearlike ▽ LOSING BATTLE
appearance. It can walk on snow This female moose
with its broad feet, and survive managed to defend her
extreme conditions in remote week-old calf from a
forests, tundra, and mountains NW. to N. North America, pack of wolves for 10
NE. Europe to N. and E. Asia minutes, but, despite her
encircling the Arctic. superior size and power,
Wolverines store food after they were able to drag
a big kill. Reindeer and caribou the calf away from her.
are dismembered and buried in ▽ ON THE GO
snow or soil, or pushed into rock Short, powerful legs and a supple,
shuffling action help the wolverine
crevices and gullies. They mate cover long distances at a relentless
in summer and two to four cubs pace in search of food, with minimum
are born the following spring. expenditure of energy.
YELLOWSTONE | 39

Moose pointed hooves for


Alces alces digging in snow

The world’s largest species of deer, the moose lives They use their flexible upper lip to browse the freshest
below the Arctic Circle, inhabiting coniferous and leaves and shoots. In winter, when leafy food is in short 8—10 ft (2.4—3 m)
deciduous woodland, swamps, and lakes. In Europe, supply, they will kick away snow to get at moss and 620—1,320 lb (280—600 kg)
the moose is also known as the elk, whereas in lichens underneath, chew on twigs of trees such as Common
North America—to add to the confusion—the elk poplar and willow, and strip bark from trunks. Their Leaves, lichen, water
is an entirely different species. wide hooves help them to walk on soft snow as well as plants, moss, bark
wade through soft-bottomed lakes and swamps.
Solitary nomads Male moose rut in the fall, and both sexes bellow to
Unlike most other deer species, moose are mostly attract a mate. The females choose a mate by sizing up
solitary, although females are accompanied by their his antlers, which may span over 6 ft (2 m) and have up
calves. They do not defend territories, staying on the to 20 points each. Rival males frequently joust for
move all year round. Male moose select habitats that mating rights. Female moose give birth to one or two
offer the greatest supply of food, while females choose calves the following summer, which are weaned after
habitats that provide the most cover for them and their six months. A healthy adult moose has little to fear
young. Moose are diurnal browsers, and may be found from predators other than humans as it can use its N. North America, N. Europe,
cooling off in water during the hottest days of summer antlers or hooves to defend itself, but bears and wolves N. and E. Asia
while feeding on lily roots and other aquatic plants. predate the much smaller calves.
4 0 | NORTH AMERICA

White-tailed deer
Odocoileus virginianus
Although widespread and found in large numbers, the
white-tailed deer often stays out of sight. For most of the 4—6 ft (1.2—1.8 m)
year, the deer live alone, occupying small home ranges of 115—310 lb (52—140 kg)
about a square mile. They set up home in swamps, Common
woodlands, and scrubland—wherever there are plenty of Buds, leaves, twigs, cacti
shrubs to conceal them. They move slowly, constantly on
the lookout for predators such as mountain lions. If
danger appears, the deer whistle with alarm and bound
away, waving their white tails to startle attackers.
The deer’s territory provides all the food they need for
the year, even in the northern fringe of their range where
winters are long and severe. The deer do not leave when
winter comes, but follow well-trodden paths through the
snow looking for any greenery they can access. In winter, S. Canada
their coat is gray, but it thins in summer and turns red. to N. South
America
Spotted disguise
The females are ready to breed in fall, and males deploy
their antlers to battle it out for the rights to each mate.
Fawns are born in spring and lie hidden under shrubs
▷ MATURE BUCK
while the mother is away feeding. They begin to follow
Only male white-tailed deer have
their mothers in a month and are weaned when three antlers, growing a fresh set each
months old. Their spotty coat, which helps them hide year. A new point, or tine, is added
when young, is lost in the first winter. with each growth.

short, thick fur

American pika protects from


the cold

Ochotona princeps
6—9 in (15—23 cm)
The American pika looks like a cross between a guinea the presence of predators, such as coyotes, weasels, and
4—6 oz (113—170 g)
pig—with short legs and a large head—and a rabbit, with stoats, or far-carrying “mews” to assert its territory. This
Locally common
round ears and a whiskered face. Its long tail is hidden consists of a foraging area and a den in a burrow or rock
Grasses, herbs
in fur. Lively in daylight, the animal bounds across scree crevice. Pikas live next to a member of the opposite sex,
slopes, pausing to make birdlike “cheeps” that warn of giving a male–female patchwork of territories.
In summer, the pika gathers flowering stems, such as
fireweed, and long grasses. These are stored in a pile near
its burrow and left to dry. As winter approaches, the pika
drags its hay pile deep into a rock cavity, keeping its food
store safe from the snow. Pikas select plants that will
decompose the most slowly to ensure their food SW.
store will last them through the winter. This Canada,
animal is adapted to high, cold places, but W. US
climate change has squeezed it into an
ever-shrinking range.

▷ MAKING HAY
Pikas forage for grasses
and herbs, eating some
each day and caching
the rest in their winter Pikas use their cheek glands
hay store.
to scent-mark their territory
long whiskers enable
beaver to feel its way
in the dark

American beaver △ CLOSE LIPPED


Beavers close their lips behind their incisor
teeth when underwater so they can still
Castor canadensis nibble and gnaw on branches and stems.

North America’s largest rodent, the American beaver, They live in small colonies, led by a male and female
is a nocturnal “engineer” that alters landscapes who mate for life. The female gives birth to three or four 29—35 in (74—89 cm)
throughout the continent, aside from desert areas and fully furred kits between April and June. The kits leave 24—57 lb (11—26 kg)
northernmost Canada. This stocky, big-skulled aquatic after two years to form their own colonies. Common
mammal fells trees by gnawing through the trunks, Beavers make their lodges along banks or lake Woody bark, twigs, stems
then arranges them into dams across streams or rivers, shores, the most impressive being the island lodges in
or uses them to build lodges for shelter. Its flat, scaly tail the middle of ponds. With an entrance only accessible
and webbed hindfeet make it a graceful swimmer, underwater, these are the safest refuges from predators
and a waterproof coat protects it from the winter cold. such as wolves and coyotes. They tailor their dams to
rates of water flow, building straight ones for slow-
Woody diet moving water, and curved ones for faster currents.
The beavers’ long, orange incisors, which never stop
growing, are perfectly suited to their diet of woody
▽ MASTER BUILDER
bark, twigs, and stems. They also eat cambium, a soft American beavers make their dams North
tissue under the bark; favorite sources include birch, and lodges out of logs, branches, grass, America
alder, and aspen, which they often store as winter food. and moss, plastered together with mud.
42 | NORTH AMERICA

▷ FISHING EXPEDITION
The bald eagle, like other
sea eagles, does not enter
the water to catch prey;
instead, it swoops down
to snatch fish, live or dead,
from the surface of a lake.

▷▷ DOWNY CHICK
pure white hood
Bald eagle chicks remain
in the nest for 10—13 weeks,
entirely dependent on
their parents for food,
protection, and shelter.

△ BODY RIPPER
The fiercely hooked bill is not used to
kill prey, but to rip it into chunks that
can be swallowed, and to tear the hide
off the carcass of larger animals.
YELLOWSTONE | 43

black-brown body

Bald eagle long talons

Haliaeetus leucocephalus
The bald eagle is found only in North America, but the water’s edge, where such prey items—and all
its image is used as a symbol of power, grace, and kinds of wave-tossed carcasses and scraps—can
durability worldwide. Like many birds of prey, its bold be easily foraged.
looks suggest a more swashbuckling lifestyle than is Living along the western seaboard of North America
really the case, for it spends much of the time doing from Alaska to California, bald eagles penetrate far
nothing, and much of its food is carrion. It is doing inland along rivers and around lakes. They breed across
what big birds of prey do: conserving energy between the far northern parts of Canada and in winter move
bouts of hunting and gorging. south as far as Florida and the Gulf of Mexico—
to wherever water can be found.
Life on the water’s edge Bald eagles feed in small groups in winter if enough
There are eight species of giant sea eagles worldwide, food is available, and nest in small defended territories,
including the Eurasian white-tailed eagle, the African covering about 3/4 sq mile (0.2 sq km). These sites can
fish or river eagle, and the spectacular Steller’s sea be grouped quite close together. Nests are built almost
eagle from far eastern Asia. All these species, anywhere from near-flat ground to small slopes, cliffs,
including the bald eagle, have a powerful build and exposed crags, and trees.
broad wings that are “fingered” at the tip when fully
spread, a relatively short tail and a long head and Breeding pairs and trios
neck, creating a crosslike shape in flight. Unlike Each pair of bald eagles usually has several nests—
golden eagles, bald eagles soar with their wings one preferred nest, a huge heap of sticks, grass, and
held flat. All sea eagles have bare lower legs seaweed, can become as large as 13 ft (4 m) deep and
and feet, with strong toes and sharp claws to 8 ft (2.5 m) across. Although two eggs are the norm,
grip and pierce their prey, as well as a strong usually only one chick survives to fly. Up to three-
bill to tear it to pieces. quarters of the young die before they are a year
Fish form a large part of the bald eagle’s old, and only one in ten reaches five years of age.
diet, but it also eats other prey. Bald eagles Bald eagles can start breeding when four years old.
long, sharp can catch and kill animals as large as sea However, unusually, half the adults are non-breeders
bill hook otters and birds up to the size of a goose. and some form trios at one nest. Once grown, adults
In summer, many live on seabirds caught in may go on to live long, productive lives, surviving
coastal colonies. They are primarily birds of for almost 50 years in the wild.

28—38 in (71—96 cm) The bald eagle was chosen


7—14 lb (3—6.5 kg)
Common as the national bird of the
Fish, birds, mammals
US in 1782

North
America
4 4 | NORTH AMERICA

CENTRAL GREAT PLAINS


A rolling landscape, once covered in a sea of grass
Forming a broad band through North America almost to and economic catastrophe in the 1930s known as the
Mexico, between the Rocky Mountains and the Missouri Dust Bowl, in which the topsoil was entirely lost from
River, the Central Great Plains was once an immense, vast areas in a series of dust storms caused by drought
gently rolling prairie landscape that was dominated by and wind erosion. The land has mostly recovered
mixed grasses for millions of years. Succession by trees sufficiently to support grazing, but the vast herds of bison
and scrub was kept down by wild fires and grazing by that once roamed the prairies are largely gone, replaced
native herbivores such as American bison, pronghorn mainly by domestic cattle.
antelope, and prairie dogs. The prairies were also home A few pockets of relatively pristine prairie remain in
to a variety of reptiles, birds, and invertebrates, and many the US and Canada, and in reserves such as the Wichita
of these animals were exploited sustainably by nomadic Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, surviving bison
American Indian tribes. herds are protected. Even here, trees are few, and large
vegetation is limited mainly to mesquite scrub and
Conversion to agriculture prickly pear cactus.
As recently as the early 19th century, this vast area was
still covered by grassland. Today, most of the fertile land
is given over to agriculture. Overexploitation of arable
land in the early 20th century led to the environmental

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CENTRAL GREAT PLAINS | 45

sensitive nose

Pronghorn
picks up scent of
LO C AT I O N other pronghorns

Denver
Kansas City
Antilocapra americana
UNITED STATES The pronghorn is the fastest land animal in the Americas,
Central US,
including parts of with a top recorded speed of 54 mph (87 km/h). However, 4—5 ft (1.2—1.5 m)
Nebraska, Kansas, its defining feature is its horns. The forked, antlerlike 66—176 lb (30—80 kg)
Dallas Oklahoma, and headgear looks like that of a deer, and the pronghorn is Locally common
Texas. Part of
also known colloquially as the American antelope. A deer Forbs, leaves, grasses
the larger Great
Houston Plains area, which sheds its antlers each year, while an antelope keeps one pair
ME 0 km 250 extends north for life; the pronghorn keeps the bony core of the horn for
XIC
O 0 miles 250 into Canada. life, shedding the keratin sheath over the bone each winter.

C L I M AT E Home on the range


The pronghorn is the sole surviving member of the
Huge seasonal extremes of temperature, giving Antilocaprinae family, which had dozens of species five
intensely cold winters and hot, humid summers. W. and
The region is subject to extreme weather events.
million years ago. Despite their unique horns, pronghorns
C. North
share many features with other even-toed ungulates— America
°F °C (Custer State Park, South Dakota) MM IN
a herd lifestyle, a diet of leaves and grasses, and long legs.
104 40 100 4
The pronghorn population was devastated by hunting in
86 30 75 3
the 19th century. Today, pronghorn herds survive in the
68 20 50 2 remote parts of the American West, which is appropriate
50 10 25 1
as it is the very beast mentioned in the anthemic western
song “Home on the Range.”
32 0 0 0

14 -10
Jan
Feb

Sep
Oct
Nov
Apr

Jul
Mar

May

Aug

Dec
Jun

Key Average temperature Rainfall A pronghorn can ▽ RACING AWAY FROM DANGER
Pronghorns live in loose herds,
leap 20 ft (6 m) in with large males controlling mating
territories in summer. They warn

a single bound each other of danger with snorts


and by raising their white rump hairs.

Y a
SIT
I V ER fox is st.
D ift iali
R ING ive sw spec
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FOX
l l ey
▷ STAMPEDING HERD
When alarmed, bison
herds start to stampede
and, at top speed, can
reach 35 mph (60 km/h).
CENTRAL GREAT PLAINS | 47

short, upturned
horn

American bison
Bison bison
The American bison is an iconic species of the vast farms. However, the domesticated stock have been
prairies that once stretched from the Rocky Mountains cross-bred with cattle and have lost many of their wild
east across central North America, from southern traits. Wild bison have excellent hearing and sense of
Canada as far south as Texas. Also known as the smell, which are essential for detecting their chief
American buffalo, this massively built animal has a natural predator, the gray wolf.
large head, thick neck, and a prominent hump behind
the shoulders. Its front-heavy appearance is enhanced by Follow the grass
a long beard and a shaggy shawl of fur around the neck Adult females and young live in groups of 10–60, led
and forelegs. Full-grown males weigh 2,100–2,200 lb by an older cow. The bulls form separate herds or live
(950–1,000 kg), which is twice as heavy as females. alone. The breeding season is from July to September,
Despite their huge bulk, bison can run at speeds when the bulls rejoin the female-led herds. The bulls
of up to 35 mph (60 km/h). Both sexes have a pair fight for mating rights and dominance, clashing heads in
of short, upturned horns. spectacular battles. The females give birth to a single calf
after a 10-month gestation, usually in April or May when
Hunted almost to extinction there is a fresh growth of spring grass.
Bison used to live in huge, nomadic herds that roamed Bison have complex stomachs with four chambers
across long distances to graze. The population numbered to help them digest large quantities of grass, and they
many millions, with 30 million living on the Great spend long periods chewing the cud. They can paw aside
Plains. They had long been hunted by Native American snow to reveal grass below, but in harsh winters, they
tribes, but during the 1800s, European settlers moved migrate to lower, snow-free areas.
into the prairies and hunting for meat and hide
accelerated. The bison’s prairie habitat was converted Wood bison and wisent
to farmland, and by the 1880s, as few as 500–1,000 Some of the bison found in Canada are a separate
animals were left. subspecies known as wood bison (B. bison athabascae).
An end to hunting and the creation of national parks The largest free-ranging herd of this species is found in
have raised the bison population to about 30,000 Wood Buffalo National Park. There is also a population
free-ranging animals, although the species only occupies of wild bison in the Bialoweza Forest on the Poland-
less than one percent of its former range. There are about Belarus border, and these may belong to a second species
500,000 domesticated bison on private ranches and called the European bison, or wisent (B. bonasus).

△ WINTER TRAVEL
The bisons’ thick coat
and heavy mane
7—12 ft (2.1—3.5 m) An adult American bison could
770—2,200 lb (350—1,000 kg)
protect them from the
cold. They are so well
Locally common leap over an adult human
insulated that even a Grasses, sedges
dusting of snow on their
back does not melt.

◁ YOUNG BISON
A calf can stand, walk,
or run with its mother
a couple of hours after N., NW.,
it is born. The calves and C.
are weaned at about North America
six months.
4 8 | NORTH AMERICA

Black-tailed prairie dog


Cynomys ludovicianus
A large species of ground squirrel, black-tailed patch of the tunnel and defend it from intruders.
prairie dogs are highly social rodents. They live Coterie members share a scent, which marks them
in “towns”—extensive networks of underground out from other groups.
tunnels and chambers. A town houses hundreds Prairie dogs dig their tunnels deep enough to
of dogs, all organized into smaller groups called avoid winter frosts. Any loose earth pushed to the
coteries. A coterie, made up of a dozen adults and surface forms mounds around the tunnel entrances
their offspring, works together to maintain their that are ideal for spotting predators.

14—17 in (36—43 cm)


2—3 lb (0.9—1.4 kg)
Common
Grass, sedge

▷ FAMILY UNIT
Pups emerge from
under the ground at
the age of six weeks
and are looked after
by every member
of the coterie. Most SW. Canada
males leave the group to N. Mexico
after their first winter.

Black-footed ferret
Mustela nigripes
This solitary, burrowing hunter is one of North America’s rarest
mammals. Numbers fell to 18 in the mid-1980s, but are now 16—20 in (41—51 cm)
increasing again. About 90 percent of the black-footed ferret’s 2—3 lb (0.9—1.4 kg)
diet is made up of prairie dogs. The ferrets dig their dens right Endangered
in the middle of prairie dog communities, Prairie dogs, mice, squirrels
even setting up home in unused sections
of their tunnel network. They can follow
prairie dogs into their burrows, killing
and eating them underground.

▽ DISTINCTIVE MASK
Male and female ferrets have
a well-defined mask around the
eyes from an early age.

Reintroduced to C. US
CENTRAL GREAT PLAINS | 49

grizzled red
and gray coat

small feet

Coyote
Canis latrans
Most wild dog species face enormous pressure from
humans encroaching on their wide-ranging habitats.
However, the coyote is thriving, even encroaching on
human habitats as a proficient poacher of poultry and
scavenger of human garbage.
Somewhere between a fox and wolf in size, the coyote
has a highly adaptable lifestyle. Although it may form
packs to hunt large animals such as deer, mostly it is a
solitary hunter, targeting smaller prey—such as prairie
dogs—alone. Coyotes spend the day in an underground
den; they may dig their own den, but usually enlarge one
abandoned by badgers or ground squirrels.

Involved parenting
When raising offspring, coyotes set out their home ranges
by marking bushes and other landmarks with urine and
feces. They assert their claim on the territory with loud
yips and howls. Coyotes may form pair bonds that last
several years. Mating occurs in late winter, and about
six pups are born two months later. Both parents nourish
the youngsters with regurgitated food in the den.

Coyotes work with


American badgers
to hunt burrowing
rodents
◁ HOWLING COYOTE
Coyotes are noisy 29—37 in (74—94 cm)
animals, frequently 17—35 lb (7.7—15.9 kg)
howling to lay claim
Common
to a territory or greet
a family member. Mammals, insects, fruit

North America
and N. Central America
50 | NORTH AMERICA

Greater Common garter


snake
sage-grouse Thamnophis sirtalis
Centrocercus urophasianus One of North America’s
most widespread reptiles, the 20—49 in (51—125 cm)
America’s largest grouse lacks common garter snake frequents 5—7 oz (141—198 g)
a muscular gizzard and cannot 19—30 in (48—76 cm) all but very dry or very cold Common
digest hard seeds and shoots. 3—7 lb (1.4—3.2 kg) habitats. Across its cooler, Worms, fish, amphibians
It relies on various kinds of Near threatened northern range, individuals
sagebrush for food and cover. Sagebrush, insects gather in burrows, caves, and North America
During the breeding season, similar sites to overwinter,
females watch males display at a conserving energy by slowing
▽ STRIPES OR SPOTS
lek, a communal display ground. their metabolism. In late This species typically has three light
They select the strongest males summer, females have litters stripes running lengthwise, but some
to mate with. A few dominant of 10–70 babies. garter snakes have rows of spots.
males mate with the females
and hens lay six to nine eggs. heavily
The chicks are fully mobile after keeled
six to eight weeks, when families W. to C. scales
may move to winter ranges at North America
lower altitudes in search of food.

▽ STRUT DISPLAY
When displaying at a lek, male sage-grouse rapidly inflate and
deflate their breast air sacs to produce loud, far-carrying, bubbling,
popping sounds. They also spread their pointed tail feathers.

Striped scorpion
Centruroides vittatus

By day, the striped scorpion


lurks in damp nooks under 2—3 in (5—7.6 cm)
rocks and logs, and in thick Not known
vegetation. It emerges at sunset Insects, spiders, centipedes
to hunt, detecting prey by their
smell and movement with the C. North America to
help of comblike sensory organs N. Central America
between its last set of legs. The
scorpion then crushes victims
with its pincers and kills them
with its stinger.
Females produce young after
an estimated gestation of about
eight months. The 30–50
offspring are carried on
their mother’s back
until they molt for
the first time.

▷ PERFECT CAMOUFLAGE
two broad stripes
The scorpion’s coloring helps
along back
to hide it from predators as
well as prey.
CENTRAL GREAT PLAINS | 51

3—4 in (7.6—10.2 cm)


black and white Common
markings on Milkweed leaves; nectar
wing tips

Monarch butterfly
Danaus plexippus
N. America to
N. South America
The beautiful monarch is a familiar sight in North the caterpillar: orioles detect the poison and vomit
America. In autumn, monarchs that live west of the after eating it, while grosbeaks have a degree of
Rocky Mountains migrate to coastal California, while immunity and digest butterflies without suffering
those from the east of the Rockies fly south to a small any harmful effect.
highland area in Michoacán, Mexico. Survivors of the Monarchs are threatened by pesticide use in the
Mexican winter move north to Texas and Oklahoma US, which kills the milkweed plant, their food, and by
in March, producing a new generation that spreads logging in Mexico, which reduces their habitat and leaves
northward once more. Third and fourth generations them susceptible to cold and rain. The Monarch Butterfly
continue the spread north through the US and Canada, Biosphere Reserve in Michoacán, where they overwinter,
and return south in autumn. was declared a World Heritage Site in 2008.

Predators beware
▽ MASS MIGRATION ▷ FEEDING ON MILKWEED
The monarch’s bright, contrasted coloration advertises
Millions of monarchs migrate south The milkweed plant sustains
its unpalatability to predators. The caterpillar absorbs in fall. They use stored fat to fuel the monarch butterfly by
steroids from the sap of the milkweed plant that are toxic their flight, and may glide on air supplying it with leaves,
to predators. However, wasps and various birds can eat currents to save evergy. sap, and nectar.
52 | NORTH AMERICA

SIERRA NEVADA
California’s snowy backbone
At around 4 million years old, the Sierra Nevada is a dominated by lodgepole pines, red and white fir, and
relatively young range of mountains, forming a dramatic eventually, whitebark pine. Finally, the trees give way
crest 400 miles (650 km) long by 60 miles (100 km) wide to hardy alpine plants at about 10,500 ft (3,200 m).
along California’s eastern edge. At the southern end lies The forests are interspersed with rivers and lakes,
Mount Whitney, the highest US peak outside Alaska at wet and dry meadows, and extensive areas of brushland.
14,505 ft (4,421 m). The region also boasts the largest The wide range of altitudes and climates in the Sierra
alpine lake in North America—the famously clear Lake Nevada is reflected in the diverse wildlife. Animals living
Tahoe—and three national parks: Yosemite, Sequoia, at higher altitudes, such as alpine chipmunks and pikas,
and Kings Canyon. must be able to tolerate low temperatures and snow for
much of the year. The mountains are also home to both
Forest and climate zones black and brown bears, bald eagles, and increasing
The Sierra Nevada’s western foothills are cloaked in numbers of American beavers.
savanna and deciduous oak woodland, but the rest of the
range rising toward the east is dominated by coniferous
forest, starting with juniper and Ponderosa and Jeffrey
pines at lower altitudes. Giant sequoias start to appear at
about 3,280 ft (1,000 m), and higher still, the forests are

lmon, a unds

the reg overexploitati tors.


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SIERRA NEVADA | 53

LO C AT I O N

0 km
0 miles
200
200
Bighorn long hairs cover

sheep woolly coat


C a

Ovis canadensis
l i

The Sierra Nevada


San
f o

Francisco
mountains sweep
south along the
r
n

eastern flank of
PA EA N

This North American wild sheep is named for the adult


OC

California, with a
CI

spur, the Carson male’s immense curling horns, which grow to more than 3—6 ft (1—1.8 m)
FI
C

Range, edging 3 ft (1 m) in length. The rams establish a hierarchy based 132—320 lb (60—145 kg)
Los Angeles
into Nevada. on horn size, with older sheep taking the lead. When it is Vulnerable
too close to call, the rivalry is resolved with a head-butting Forbs, grasses, shrubs
C L I M AT E battle. Females grow smaller horns that sweep back from
the head. They are mainly defensive, used to deter
A temperate Mediterranean climate is heavily predators such as eagles and pumas.
influenced by altitude, with warm summers and
cool winters. Most precipitation falls in the west.
High living
°F °C (Yosemite Valley, California) MM IN
In summer, bighorn sheep graze in high mountain
104 40 160 6 1⁄4
meadows. They leap from ledge to ledge, never slipping on
86 30 120 4 3⁄4 the steep, rough ground—their forked hooves split apart
as they press down on the ground and grip the rock that C. North
68 20 80 3 1⁄4
fills the gap between them. As winter approaches, the America
50 10 40 1 1⁄2
chief ram leads his band of about 10 sheep to lower
ground, where they join together to form herds of as
32 0 0 0 many as 100 individuals. The hard outer rim of the
▽ CURVED HORNS
Jan
Feb

Sep
Oct
Nov
Apr

Jul
Mar

May

Aug

Dec
Jun

bighorn sheep’s hooves cut into snow and ice to provide a


The ram’s horns keep growing, and can
Key Average temperature Rainfall better grip. Breeding takes place in the valleys, and lambs get so large that the tips impede its
are born in spring, a few weeks before the bands trek back field of view. Older rams rub down the
up to the peaks. tips on a rock to keep them short.

on
N TS rees all
I A e t sm e
F G ingl wo h
D O est s on t ce. T
Am

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LA larg pend rodu ring
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Th th de to re od-b glas
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Ea mals f a wo Dou nt in
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’s

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con fs
lar

squ uoia rain o ow.


q y e l
se ead or b
ges

t
a s st flo
e
for horns of large ram
t alp

weigh more than


his skeleton
GIAN
ine lak
T SEQU
OIA
e
5 4 | NORTH AMERICA

thick, sleek fur

powerful claws
for digging

Striped
skunk △ NEST RAIDER
A striped skunk forages in a wild turkey’s nest.
Mephites mephites Skunks are adept at finding bird eggs, and often
eat an entire clutch at one go.

About the size of a domestic cat, the striped skunk


is related to badgers, otters, and weasels. Skunks share
long,
features such as a stocky, low-slung body with them, bushy tail
but have the ability to spray a noxious chemical at
potential predators. This fluid is produced by the
anal scent glands under the tail. The skunk first lifts
its tail in the air like a flag and stamps the ground as
a warning. Should the aggressor stand its ground, the
skunk does a handstand, twists its body, and squirts
the liquid over its head at the attacker’s face.

Opportunistic feeder
The striped skunk lives in a wide variety of habitats,
often near water. It will eat virtually anything,
including household garbage. Mostly solitary and
nocturnal, it can sometimes be spotted in the half-
light of dawn and dusk. Striped skunks breed from
February to March; females give birth in a burrow or
a den underneath a building or fallen tree. The young
become independent at about seven or eight weeks.

▷ WARNING COLORATION
The skunk’s striking black-and-white coloration
with a bold white “V” running down its back
and tail, and its raised tail, serve as a warning
to potential predators.

4—6 ft (1.2—1.8 m)
22—30 in (56—76 cm) 120—660 lb (55—300 kg)
6—14 lb (2.7—6.4 kg) Common
Common Fruit, nuts, vegetation
Rodents, bird eggs, honey

North America, N. Central


C. Canada to N. Mexico America
SIERRA NEVADA | 55

powerful
limbs for tree
climbing

American
black bear
Ursus americanus
Smaller than grizzlies, black bears also have a
straighter profile and are much better climbers. They
prefer temperate forests, but can cope with humid
Florida swamps as well as subarctic weather in Canada.
True omnivores, they mainly feed on wild fruits, nuts,
and vegetation, supplemented with insects, grubs, fish,
and carrion—occasionally they hunt mammals too.
Inquisitive and opportunistic, black bears also exploit
garbage dumps and food left at campsites.
They are solitary except during the mating season,
which takes place from mid-May to July. The cubs are
born in a den from January to March, while their
mothers are hibernating. Litters are usually made up of
twins or triplets, but can contain as many as four or five
cubs. Cubs remain with their mothers until they are
around two years old.

Healthy numbers
American black bear numbers are about twice those of
all the world’s other bear species combined—despite
the fact that it is native to just three countries: Canada,
the US, and Mexico. Of 16 recognized subspecies, only
the smallest, the Louisiana black bear (U.a. luteolus),
is considered threatened under the US Endangered
Species Act, due mainly to habitat loss and overhunting.
The population of black bears seems stable in areas that
are as diverse as their coat colors, which range from
△ BATTLE WORN
Black bears are shy
cinnamon, light gold, gray-blue, dark brown, and black
and generally avoid to British Columbia’s white-Kermode or “spirit bear”
humans, but both subspecies (U.a. kermodei).
sexes will fight,
kill, and sometimes
even eat each other.

◁ TREE CLIMBING
A black bear’s sense
△ SCRATCH MY BACK
Black bears often use trees as
Cubs are taught by
their mothers to
climb trees to
of smell is seven times
scratching posts, but bite and claw
marks left on bark may mean
escape danger—
including attacks
more acute than
certain trees also serve a territorial
scent-marking purpose.
by adult male
black bears. a bloodhound’s
5 6 | NORTH AMERICA

heavy

Alpine chipmunk body

Tamias alpinus

Chipmunks are small, squirrel-like creatures of open spaces.


Alpine chipmunks are found only in California’s Sierra Nevada
mountains, surviving above 8,000 ft (2,500 m) on broken cliffs and
scree with abundant cavities and plentiful seeds of grasses, sedges,
and stunted pines. They hibernate from mid-October to June to
escape the worst of winter. They store little fat, but cache surplus
food in summer and wake often to feed during winter, in between
Turkey
several days of torpor. Alpine chipmunks have no need to find and
drink water as they get sufficient moisture from their food. vulture
Cathartes aura
6—7 in (15—18 cm)
1—2 oz (28—57 g)
The turkey vulture is one of seven New World vultures,
Locally common
all of which scavenge dead animals and ride up-currents
Seeds, fruit
of warm air over vast areas. They soar on wings raised
in a “V” shape for extra stability, their body weight
SW. US
slung low. Their slotted wingtips reduce turbulence—
a feature copied by early aircraft designers.

Mutual dependence
While all vultures have excellent sight, few have a keen
◁ ROCKY PERCH
Deep, narrow crevices retain heat in
sense of smell. In forests, other vultures follow turkey
high, exposed places, helping this vultures to locate carcasses hidden under trees because
small mammal to survive. they can locate food by smell. When large carcasses are
found, turkey vultures stand aside as bigger species with
stronger beaks open up tough hides. All vultures prefer
newly dead animals and avoid putrefying meat.
Turkey vultures that breed in the north migrate to the

Mountain chickadee tropics in winter, but many stay in the southern US all
year round. They breed in early spring in the south and in
July or August farther north, laying their eggs on a cliff
Poecile gambeli
ledge, or sometimes in a hollow tree or dense thicket.
Two eggs are incubated for up to 40 days, and the chicks
Tits, or titmice, are common are fed in the nest for about 10 weeks.
worldwide. Several North 6 in (15 cm)
American species are known as 5
/16—3/8 oz (10—18 g)
chickadees due to their “chick-
a-dee” call. Active, acrobatic,
Common
Seeds, small insects, spiders
Turkey vultures can smell
social feeders, mountain
chickadees join mixed flocks N., W., and S. North
newly dead animals
roaming high coniferous America
woods in search of
food in fall and
distinctive white
winter. A dispersed eyebrow
flock is more likely
to find good feeding
places than a lone
bird, and many pairs
of eyes are better at
spotting danger.

▷ SOLE TARGET
Should a predator such as a hawk
appear, a lone chickadee would
be its only target. It is much safer
to be one of many in a flock.
25—32 in (64—81 cm)
2—5 lb (1—2.2 kg)
Common
Carrion

C. North
America to S.
South America

broad, fingered,
two-tone wings

bare head and


hooked bill

strong bare
legs and feet

◁ WIDE WINGS △ TOUCHING DOWN


Turkey vultures spread their wings Tail spread for control, wings beating as
when perched to allow the sun’s heat brakes, and eyes focused downward, the
to warm their body in the morning vulture thrusts its feet forward to absorb
and to dry wet feathers. This keeps the shock as it brings its substantial
their plumage in good condition. weight in to land.
58 | NORTH AMERICA

▷ EGG TOOTH
These day-old chicks
still have the hard white
egg tooth at the end of
their beak, which they thick layer
used to break out of of feathers
their shell. insulates body

Great
gray owl
Strix nebulosa
▽ WINGED WONDER This owl’s thick insulation makes it look large, but its
A light body and 23—27 in (59—69 cm) body is actually much smaller and lighter than the eagle
broad wings allow 2—4 lb (0.8—1.7 kg) owl or great horned owl. A less fearsome predator, the
slow, silent flight,
Common great gray owl focuses on small prey, often in difficult
and help the owl
to maneuver with Voles, mice, birds, frogs conditions. The disklike face, more than 20 in (50 cm)
precision between trees. wide, suggests astonishingly acute hearing, although
Special fringes on the the owl’s small eyes seem more suited to daylight than
wing feathers almost nighttime activity. Unusually for an owl, it hunts by
eliminate wing noise.
day and at night. The facial feathers let sound through
easily but protect what is hidden behind: an arc of stiff
feathers that directs sound right into the assymetrically
positioned ears. This helps the owl to locate the source
of a sound with pinpoint accuracy.
N. and C. North America, Great gray owls watch and listen for voles from
E. Europe, Asia a perch, often a broken tree stump, and glide down
silently to catch them, taking them by surprise. They
can hear tunneling rodents under layers of snow, and
penetrate 16–20 in (40–50 cm), plunging headfirst, with
a final thrust of their deadly feet. Found mainly in the
north, a small population of great gray owls remains
in the Sierra Nevada of California.

wide facial disk broad,


fingered
wings

short,
broad tail
Mountain
kingsnake
Lampropeltis zonata
The California Mountain kingsnake has an extensive
distribution from Baja California, Mexico, north into
Washington state. As its name suggests, the Sierra
Mountain subspecies (L.z. multicincta) is restricted
to that area. Living in uplands and mountains up to
△ TRICOLOR SNAKE
altitudes of 10,000 ft (3,000 m), this habitat generalist Ready to strike if need be, the Sierra Mountain
20—47 in (50—120 cm)
basks by day in remote gullies or on old logs; rests kingsnake displays its bright warning colors.
Up to 3 lb (up to 1.5kg)
at night among boulders or tree roots; and shelters Not all of the subspecies are alike; some have
Locally common
in burrows through winter. thinner or even no rings.
Small snakes, lizards, birds

False colors
Like most other kingsnakes, this nonvenomous
constrictor has red or orange, black, and white or cream
rings that mimic the coloration of the venomous coral The kingsnake eats
snake to deter predators. A stealthy sight-and-smell
predator, it hunts mainly lizards and small snakes. other snakes—even
Other prey include birds, especially nestlings of towhees
and thrushes, eggs, and less often, small rodents, frogs SW. North venomous young
and other amphibians. It may squeeze a victim in its coils America
to subdue it before swallowing it whole. rattlesnakes

Ensatina Yellow-legged
Ensatina eschscholtzii
frog
A native of western US Rana sierrae
mountain forests, the ensatina 2—3 in (6—8 cm)
salamander does not breathe Spring and summer
air. This nocturnal amphibian Locally common Found in and around mountain
has no lungs—all the oxygen Worms, insects, spiders pools and streams, the Sierra
it needs is absorbed directly Nevada yellow-legged frog lives
through its moist skin. The W. US at altitudes of up to 11,800 ft back legs
nostrils on the snout are used (3,600 m). It spends winters yellow
underneath
purely for smelling. Ensatinas hibernating at the bottom of
have poison glands in their tail, frozen lakes. In summer, it hunts
but predators such as raccoons by day, rarely straying more
△ DEFENSIVE ODOR
have learned to eat the head, than a metre or two from water. Yellow-legged frogs exude a
then body, and discard the tail. Three species of yellow-legged pungent garliclike odor from
Mating occurs during the frogs have now been identified, their skin if they are picked up.
cooler seasons, and in summer, all with a pale yellow underside.
pregnant females retreat into a The main difference between the
damp nook to lay a dozen eggs. three lies in their distinct mating 2—3 in (6—8 cm)
The young hatch out after about calls. The breeding season Spring
four months and have the same begins after the spring thaw, Endangered
body form as an adult, rather and after mating, the females lay Insects, spiders, worms
△ LIVING ON LAND
than going through a larval Unusually for an amphibian, the their eggs on aquatic vegetation.
tadpole stage. They leave the nest ensatina salamander’s entire life The tadpoles take three or four SW. North America
after the first autumn rains. cycle is based on land. years to reach maturity.
6 0 | NORTH AMERICA

MOJAVE DESERT
The smallest and driest desert in the US
The Mojave Desert covers 25,000 sq miles (65,000 sq km) in Death Valley in the north, where at Furnace Creek on
of alternating mountain ranges and flat, low-lying basins, July 10, 1913, the atmospheric temperature reached 134°F
mainly in southern California. The Mojave merges (56.7°C), the highest ever recorded on Earth. Death Valley
almost imperceptibly with the Sonoran Desert to the also holds the record for the lowest place in the US:
south and the Great Basin Desert to the north. Its extent Badwater Basin dips to 282 ft (86 m) below sea level. The
is traditionally indicated by the range of an endemic name refers to a small spring, whose waters contain high
yucca, the Joshua tree (see main photo). This distinctive levels of dissolved salts, making them undrinkable for
plant is one of more than 200 found only in the Mojave, humans. However, the spring does support other life,
which make up a quarter of the desert’s plant species. including pickleweed, a variety of aquatic insects, and the
Badwater snail, another Mojave endemic. Other desert
Land of extremes specialists living in the Mojave include the kangaroo rat,
The Mojave Desert is dry because it lies in the rain the desert tortoise, and the deadly Mojave rattlesnake.
shadow of the Rocky Mountains. It is a high desert, lying
mostly at more than 1,970 ft (600 m) above sea level.
Daytime temperatures are high, nowhere more so than

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MOJAVE DESERT | 61

LO C AT I O N

The Mojave Desert lies


between the Sonoran and
Kit fox black patch on
Great Basin deserts, mostly Vulpes macrotis either side of snout

in southeastern California.

Thanks to its huge ears, the kit fox has excellent hearing,
San Francisco 0 km 200
which helps it locate prey ranging from insects to 18—22 in (46—56 cm)
0 miles 200
Ca

jackrabbits and lizards. Oversized ears also keep this 4—6 lb (1.8—2.7 kg)
lif

desert dweller cool by thermoregulation: their huge Common


or

A ri z o na surface area releases large amounts of heat during the Rodents, hares, insects
ni
a

hottest months, keeping the animal’s body temperature


Los Angeles
within comfortable limits.
Phoenix

Survival skills
C L I M AT E North America’s smallest wild canid has other desert
survival skills. The soles of its feet are fur-lined, lending
The Mojave Desert receives less than 13 in traction but also keeping the pads from burning on hot
(330 mm) of rain a year and some areas get
none at all. Temperatures vary enormously.
terrain. Mainly nocturnal, the kit fox avoids the heat as
well as predators, such as coyotes, by spending the day
°F °C (Barstow, California) MM IN
inside one of many burrows that it either digs or takes
104 40 60 2 1⁄4 SW. North America
over from animals such as prairie dogs. It also makes dens
86 30 45 1 ⁄43 in manmade structures such as storm drains.
Kit foxes are mainly monogamous, but pairs do not
68 20 30 1 1⁄4
necessarily share the same den and they always hunt
50 10 15 1
⁄2
alone. A female bears an average of four young per litter,
which stay with her for five to six months.
32 0 0 0
Jan
Feb

Sep
Oct
Nov
Apr

Jul
Mar

May

Aug

Dec
Jun

Key Average temperature Rainfall


Kit foxes rarely drink,
obtaining moisture ▽ CHANGING COAT
The kit fox sports a rusty-tan to buff

from their food gray coat in the summer. It takes on


a silvery gray hue in the winter.

t
T an
H EA dorm s,
E e d
TH ds li erio
I NG d toa dry p ey
OI D te in th s in
AV spot und falls, sand ales
d o u
Re ergr rain e tho . Fem
ra

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un afte by th nigh all, tch
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em cool eggs ls. Th tadp
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ic
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( 1 78
RED
SP
m m)
OTTED T
OAD
62 | NORTH AMERICA

▷ VOCALIZATIONS
Small cats cannot roar round head
as the big cats do. with erect ears
Instead, pumas snarl
and hiss when annoyed
and purr when content.
large paws relative
to overall size

Puma
Puma concolor
North America’s largest cat has more than 40 common
names, including mountain lion and cougar. It is not
classified as a big cat, but as the largest of the small
cats. Once found across the US, it has now virtually
disappeared from eastern and midwestern areas. Pumas
farthest from the equator tend to be larger than those
closer to it. Coat color also varies with geography; the
most northern pumas are silver-gray, while those in
southerly, humid climates tend to be reddish brown.
Previously elusive and solitary, pumas used to avoid
contact with humans whenever possible, although
they had been known to kill people when cornered.
However, attacks recorded in North America have risen
sharply since the 1990s, with hikers, mountain bikers,
and skiers particularly at risk.

Flexible feline
Highly adaptable, pumas can live in habitats as diverse
as deserts and tropical rainforests. This adaptability
also extends to their diet. Although hoofed mammals
are preferred—especially by mothers with cubs to feed
—pumas hunt rabbits, feral pigs, insects, birds, mice,
buff-colored, coyotes, and even other pumas. Although active
thick fur
during the day, they hunt mostly at dawn and dusk.
Female pumas can breed all year round. Males and
females stay together for a few days when the female is in
season. The male then leaves in search of other potential
mates, playing no part in raising his offspring. In about
three months, the female gives birth to two or three
spotted cubs, which stay with her for up to 18 months.
At 12–14 weeks, the cubs’ spots begin to fade.

34—60 in (86—155 cm)


75—160 lb (34—72 kg)
Common
Mammals

W. and S.
North America,
△ AGILE AND ATHLETIC Central
A puma’s powerful hind legs allow it to bound America,
up to 40 ft (12 m) when running, and leap up South America
18 ft (5.4 m) from the ground.
black patch on

Black-tailed upper part of tail

jackrabbit
Lepus californicus
Despite their name jackrabbits are in fact hares, not ▷ DUAL-PURPOSE EARS
rabbits, with an above-ground lifestyle and a preference Not only do jackrabbits have excellent
for outrunning predators, rather than diving into a hearing, but the ears also act as large ears
radiators in a breeze, cooling the blood. laced with
burrow. A muscular, flexible body and long, powerful fine blood
hind legs and feet act as a spring, giving the jackrabbit vessels
great speed and acceleration from a standing start.
19—25 in (47—63 cm)
Black-tailed jackrabbits are widespread in semiarid
3—8 lb (1.5—3.5 kg)
regions with sagebrush and creosote bush, and other
Common
open shrubland. They avoid searing heat by being
Grass, herbs, twigs
active mostly at night. Unusually for hares, they
occasionally burrow to escape excessive heat.

Precocious young
Females give birth to three to five fully furred, open-
eyed young, called leverets, which are active soon after
birth. Females can breed when under a year old, but
the rate of predation is high—animals from pumas and
coyotes to hawks and rattlesnakes eat jackrabbits. In W., C., and
favorable conditions, their numbers increase rapidly, S. North America
but they fall again as food becomes scarce.

Greater roadrunner lighter throat and


chest with dark
stripes

Geococcyx californianus
Roadrunners are predominantly ground-dwelling birds are weak fliers but can get up onto treetops, wires, or
that belong to the cuckoo family. They have long, strong, roadside poles. Roadrunners eat lizards and mice, as well 22 in (56 cm)
bare legs, with two toes facing forward and two as small snakes and birds, snapping them up in their 12 oz (340 g)
backward—a feature not seemingly ideal for fast beak. This moisture-rich diet is an advantage when Common
running. Roadrunners favor semidesert regions with drinking water is scarce. They also conserve moisture by Lizards, snakes, mice, birds
open spaces as well as dry, bushy cover, but have spread excreting excess salt from a gland near the eye, rather
into moister, greener habitats with scattered trees. They than wasting water in expelling it via the kidneys.

S. North
America

◁ DESERT RUN
The roadrunner is well adapted
to life in the fast lane. It walks and
runs through the desert, trying
to flush out prey.
6 4 | NORTH AMERICA

A Gila bite is painful but


Gila rarely fatal to humans
monster fat tail stores
food and water

Heloderma suspectum
shiny, beadlike
Solidly built, strong, slow, solitary, and secretive, the Gila scales
(pronounced “hee-luh”) is North America’s largest native
lizard—and one of very few that are venomous. Toxins
from the Gila’s modified salivary glands flow into
a victim by capillary action along grooved teeth in
the lower jaw, aided by its tenaciously chewing grip.
As a result, the Gila has few natural predators.

Supersize meal
Gila monsters spend 90 percent of their time resting in
a den in an appropriated old burrow, among roots, or
under rocks. They feed on bird and reptile eggs, small
mammals, birds (especially nestlings), reptiles such as
lizards, and frogs and other amphibians, as well as bugs
and worms. Given its energy-saving habits, and the
ability to store fat in its tail, a sizeable meal lasts a Gila
for weeks. A young Gila can eat one-half
its own body weight in a sitting, an adult
one-third. As a result, some Gilas eat as
few as six times in a year.

Mojave Couch’s skin mottled with


dark markings

rattlesnake spadefoot
Crotalus scutulatus Scaphiopus couchii
rattle
A member of the pit viper The spadefoot is named after the
family, this rattlesnake hard pads on its hind feet, which
has bowl-like pits below it uses to dig burrows in the
the eyes that detect sand. The toad spends months
infrared (heat) in warm- deep underground to avoid dry
△ FEED AND BREED
blooded animals. Its potent △ MOJAVE GREEN conditions. While underground, As well as breeding, the toads spend
venom is used both to subdue Some Mojave rattlesnakes have an it retains the toxins that are the nights above ground hunting for
prey, such as rats and mice, and olive-green tinge—locals call them usually expelled in urine. as much prey as they can find.
Mojave greens.
to defend itself. The warning This creates a high chemical
rattle from which its common concentration in the toad’s body,
name is derived increases allowing water to be absorbed
in size each time the snake from the soil through its
sheds its skin. 3—4 ft (1—1.2 m) permeable skin.
The Mojave rattlesnake differs 4—9 lb (1.8—4.1 kg) Breeding takes place in the 2—4 in (5—10 cm)
from its famous close cousin, Locally common wet season. The toads come to Rainy season
the western diamondback Small mammals, lizards the surface after the first heavy Common
rattlesnake, in that the back rains, and females lay their eggs Insects, spiders
markings fade earlier toward the SW. North America, in temporary pools. They hatch
tail and its white tail rings are Central America within 36 hours, and tadpoles S. US, Mexico
wider than the black ones. mature into toadlets in 40 days.
MOJAVE DESERT | 65

▷ BURYING HER EGGS


Females lay 5 to 10 eggs in summer 16—24 in (41—61 cm)
and bury them in dry soil. The young, 3—5 lb (1.4—2.3 kg)
which are about 6 in (15 cm) long,
Near threatened
hatch nine months later.
Eggs, small birds, mammals

▽ BEADED BODY
Gila scales are rounded and slightly
domed. The pattern of black with pink,
red, or orange patches—unique on
each individual—warns potential
predators of its toxic bite.

SW. US,
N. Mexico

▽ HAIRY HUNTER

Desert blond The tarantula’s body hairs are sensory


but also have a defensive function.
When threatened, the spider uses its
back legs to flick barbed, irritating
2—3 in (5—7.6 cm)
Not known
Crickets, grasshoppers,

tarantula hairs at its attacker.

dark
abdomen
small lizards

Aphonopelma chalcodes
Lacking good vision, this desert hunter is at great risk
of predation during the day. For this reason it remains
in its burrow and waits for night to fall. In the dark, SW. North
touch is the tarantula’s main link to its surroundings. America
It uses its feet and mouthparts to detect vibrations
caused by passing animals that touch a network
of silk threads radiating from the entrance of its
burrow. The spider lies in wait for prey, then
rushes out and kills it with a venomous bite.

Mating quest
Tarantulas grow slowly, reaching sexual
maturity at 10 years. Males then search
for mates, delivering a silk sac of sperm
to each female they find. The eggs are
laid on a silk sheet at the sun-warmed pale hairs
mouth of the burrow. Spiderlings stay on legs
in the burrow for a few days only.
6 6 | NORTH AMERICA

FLORIDA EVERGLADES
The largest wetland wilderness in the US
The Everglades is a complex of low-lying, densely water flowing slowly south from Lake Okeechobee
vegetated wetlands incorporating a mosaic of habitats. toward Florida Bay. These wet sawgrass prairies—known
The region lacks the scenic grandeur of some other locally as the river of grass—include areas of sluggish
US national parks, but an area in the south was granted open water, or sloughs, and cypress swamps. Small
protected status in 1934 on account of its unique ecology patches of slightly higher ground support hammocks of
and biodiversity. The diverse array of interlinking habitats hardwood forest with trees including tropical mahogany
are defined by the depth, quality, and salinity of the and temperate oak, usually dripping with ferns and
water, and the frequency and duration of flooding. airplants (epiphytes).
More than 300 species of fish live in the Everglades,
River of grass along with the largest breeding populations of tropical
The park’s coastal ecosystems include estuaries, tidal waders in North America. The region is also home to 50
mangrove swamps, and coastal prairies dominated by species of reptile, including the American alligator and
salt- and drought-tolerant succulent plants. These give the threatened American crocodile.
way inland to prairies and sparsely canopied forests of
fast-growing slash pine, which are periodically razed
by fire. The prairies are interspersed with lower-
lying areas almost permanently inundated with

l roots
s, with

trees
ing

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by butt
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l
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K
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OR

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PRED
ATO
The Flo R IN PERIL
subsp rida p
ecies anthe
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Ame

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100 re des—fewer l in
numb m ain . Its d than
ers ha
ve bee windling
North

by oth n boo
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introd ecies of pu
uced f ma
rom T
exas.
FLORIDA EVERGLADES | 67

LO C AT I O N

0 km
0 miles
200
200
West Indian manatee
ATLANTIC Trichechus manatus
F

OCEAN
l o

Orlando
The southern tip With their bulgy bodies, broad heads, and wide, whiskery
r i

Tampa of the Florida muzzles, West Indian manatees resemble walruses, but 8—13 ft (2.4—3.9 m)
peninsula, mainly their closest living relatives are the elephant and the tiny, 440—1,320 lb (200—600 kg)
d a

south of Lake hooved, rodentlike hyrax. Gentle and slow-moving, Vulnerable


Okeechobee. The
manatees never haul out on land and cannot survive in Seagrasses, aquatic plants
greater Everglades
ecosystem extends cold conditions. They graze on salt- and freshwater plants,
Gulf of Miami north to Lake an activity that, along with their shape and docile nature,
Mexico Kissimmee. has earned them the nickname “sea cow”.

C L I M AT E

The Everglades are tropical, with two seasons:


warm and dry from December to April, hot and
wet from May to November.

°F °C (Florida City) MM IN SE. US to NE.


104 40 260 10 1⁄4 South America,
Caribbean
86 30 195 7 1⁄2

68 20 130 5
◁ LANGUID PACE
50 10 65 2 1⁄2 Manatees swim slowly, surfacing
every three to five minutes to breathe.
32 0 0 0
When resting, they can stay underwater
Jan
Feb

Sep
Oct
Nov
Apr

Jul
Mar

May

Aug

Dec
Jun

for as long as 20 minutes.


Key Average temperature Rainfall

Northern gray fox


Urocyon cinereoargenteus
Slight, quick, and agile, the gray fox is a capable climber,
often resting as high as 59 ft (18 m) in trees out of reach 22—26 in (56—66 cm)
of predators such as coyotes and dogs. Mainly nocturnal 5—12 lb (2—5.4 kg)
and a solitary hunter, it preys on rabbits and rodents in the Common
winter, but its diet varies with the season and, like most Rodents, birds, insects
CY
S foxes, it will eat almost anything it comes across. Both
PR

ER parents raise the pups, which are independent by fall.


AD te
ES

V re
SE

I N ra sa
ME erteb lade jor
S

O g
LC of v ver ma he
WE r E a T
UN uarte n the sing dlife. as
q i o i l
A cie ed,s p w on h so
ve
spe oduc nati pyth s and g. It
an

r e
int eat to rmes dator easin n
r o
thr e Bu l pre e inc acco
dc

u g u ra a r l r
a
h
na
t
ers loc ns.
no umb ting ulatio
ro c

North
n ta p
its evas it po America
is d rabb
odi

to N. South
d
an America
les

BURM
co ex i s

◁ BARKING CALL
ESE PYT

The gray fox has a wide range of


vocalizations, including yapping barks,
HON
t

screams, and growls.


6 8 | NORTH AMERICA

24—37 in (60—95 cm)


6—23 lb (2.7—10.4 kg)
Common
Small animals, berries, eggs

S. Canada to
Central America

▷ MASKED BANDIT
The black “bandit” mask
around a raccoon’s eyes
reflects its opportunistic
behaviour. It can climb,
dig, and manipulate
doors and latches
with its forepaws.
FLORIDA EVERGLADES | 69

pale gray to
almost black fur

Northern raccoon
Procyon lotor
Dexterous, intelligent, and adaptable, the northern wild, where they hole up during the day and emerge to
raccoon is found in practically every North American hunt at dusk. They are just as willing to live in barns,
environment, from swamp to mountains, urban streets crawl spaces, and attics. Raccoons thrive in towns and
to farmland. Once a tropical animal that foraged mainly cities due to a plentiful supply of food and a lack of
along riverbanks, it has changed into a pan-continental natural predators such as coyotes, bobcats, and pumas.
species. Raccoons are now found in a variety of
habitats, including deserts and mountains, where they Master manipulator
were previously rare, but they prefer watercourses. Raccoons are exceedingly dexterous. The five toes on
their forepaws function in the same way as human
Adapt and thrive fingers, allowing them to grasp and manipulate
“Flexible” describes this extremely successful food, as well as turn doorknobs and release latches.
omnivore best. Raccoons are optimal survivors, They are strong swimmers, relying heavily on their
locating food in ponds and streams, in trees, and sense of touch—the sensitivity of which may increase
on the ground in the wild, as well as in gutters, underwater—when feeling around for prey such as
garbage cans, and rooftops in cities. Insects, frogs and shellfish. Even though its hindlegs are longer
frogs, rodents, eggs, nuts, and berries make up than its forelegs—giving it a hunched appearance—
their diet in the wild. In urban areas, they the raccoon can run at speeds up to 15 mph (24 km/h).
consume almost anything edible they come Females give birth to a litter of three or four young,
across—they even raid birdfeeders and from multiple fathers, called kits, in spring. The kits
outdoor feeding stations of domestic begin to follow their mother on her nocturnal forays
animals. Raccoons generally make their when they are 8–10 weeks old, and remain with her
dens in hollow trees or burrows in the until they are 13–14 months old.

An adult raccoon is strong enough


to hold a dog’s head underwater

△ FEELING FOR FOOD


With their agile, sensitive fingers, raccoons are
adept at finding food underwater. Crayfish is a
favorite food source.

◁ TIGHT GRIP
An adult raccoon can catch prey as large as
trout. The raccoon keeps a tight grip on its
slippery meal with its sharp claws.
70 | NORTH AMERICA

kinked neck

broadly webbed
feet

Anhinga
Anhinga anhinga
Found commonly in swamps and waterways, the a chance to spear a passing fish. Special vertebrae
anhinga is the Americas’ equivalent of the similar and neck musculature give its neck a permanent
African darter. It roosts on trees and mangroves, but kink, and an instant, rapid forward stab.
leaves to feed soon after sunrise, flying to open water. The anhinga then rises to the surface,
It swims low in the water, head and neck raised, shakes the fish free, and swallows it.
earning the alternative name “snakebird.” Anhingas nest in mixed colonies with slender
head
other tree-nesting birds. The female builds
Spearfishing the nest from twigs and reeds collected by the
With unusually dense bones and plumage that quickly male. Up to six eggs are incubated for three to four
absorbs water, the anhinga sinks easily and swims weeks. The chicks are fed at first with pre-digested
underwater for up to a minute. It does not have the fish from the parents’ throats and then whole fish.
powerful legs of the cormorants for active pursuit, They leave the nest after six weeks, but remain
but feeds more like an underwater heron, waiting for dependent on their parents for a few more weeks.
silver-white
markings on
upperparts
of wings

long,
daggerlike bill

▽ OUTSTRETCHED WINGS
Anhingas display with one or both
wings outstretched. They also
regularly perch with open wings
to help dry saturated feathers and
to regulate their body temperature.
black shoulder
patches

Great blue heron long,


narrow
Ardea herodias toes

The great blue heron is the largest wading bird in standing like shadowy statues in the shallows for
North America. Herons worldwide have a similar hours. They can be surprisingly aerobatic around
◁ PIERCED PREY
long neck, curled back between the shoulders in their treetop colonies, where up to six eggs are
Most fish-eating birds grasp prey in their
bills, but anhingas are spear-fishers,
flight or when the bird is resting, but stretched out incubated for 27 days. The chicks are fed by both
piercing small fish with the upper to grab a passing fish with a lightning strike of the parents for up to 80 days before they can fly.
mandible, and larger ones with both. long, sharp bill. Great blue herons are masters of One subspecies, A. h. occidentalis, occurs in
“wait-and-watch” predation and patient stalking, a pure white form in Florida.

◁ HIGH LIFE
34—35 in (86—89 cm) 3—5 ft (0.9—1.5 m) Great blue herons build
3 lb (1.4 kg) 5—6 lb (2.3—2.7 kg) their nests high on
trees, safe from ground
Common Common
predators. They must
Fish Fish, frogs, birds be substantial enough
for several chicks to
grow to full size.

North
America
S. North to N. South
America America
to C. South
America

Purple gallinule long, yellow


legs and toes

Porphyrio martinica
Combining ease of movement on land and on of grasses on a floating mat of weed or attached
floating leaves with the ability to swim like a duck, to reed stems, contains up to 10 eggs, which hatch
the gallinule is a waterside all-rounder that lives in after 20 days. The chicks feed themselves after a
tropical wetlands. It prefers dense vegetation with week, become independent three weeks later,
open channels and ditches. Its dishlike nest, made and fly when five to seven weeks old.

11—14 in (28—36 cm)


7—10 oz (200—284 g)
Common
Seeds, fruit, invertebrates

▷ QUICK STEPPER
The gallinule spreads
its weight through its
elongated toes and
steps quickly and
rhythmically across S. North
floating vegetation. America
It also often climbs to South
up more awkwardly America
through dense twigs.
72 | NORTH AMERICA

alligators have a more


rounded snout than
keeled scales on tail
crocodiles

American
alligator
Alligator mississippiensis
10—13 ft (3—4 m)
This fearsome predator is restricted to wetlands and
Up to 660 lb (300 kg)
swamps of the southeastern US, and propels itself
Locally common
through water with its muscular, laterally flattened
Fish, waterbirds, mammals
tail. On land, the American alligator can crawl on
its underside or lift its body off the ground in a slow,
waddling walk. If it draws its legs fully below its body,
it can gallop for short distances, charging faster than
many humans can run. Mostly a night hunter, it drifts
or swims stealthily, then lunges at its prey.
Courtship and mating begin in April and May, with
the males roaring and bellowing as low as they can to
attract females. In August, 30–50 babies hatch in a nest
mound of warm decomposing vegetation gathered by SE. US
the mother. She listens for the hatching babies’ chirps,
helps them out of the nest, and carries them in her
▷ POWERFUL JAWS
mouth down to the water. Size, power, and a thick skin
The alligator grabs its prey with about
mean an adult alligator has little to fear, but the young 80 conical teeth set in powerful jaws. A
are vulnerable to predators and are protected by their characteristic large tooth in the lower
mother for up to three years. jaw fits into a socket in the upper jaw.

Common snapping turtle


Chelydra serpentina
brown or 10—19 in (25—48 cm)
Ranging as far north as Alberta, Canada, and as far olive to black Up to 35 lb (16 kg)
south as the US Gulf Coast, some snapping turtles upper shell
Common
have even been seen in the Rocky Mountains—no Fish, mammals, plants
mean feat for an animal that prefers to spend most
of its time in muddy freshwater lakes and rivers.
As the name suggests, the snapping turtle bites.
Highly aggressive on land, it is prone to snapping
the heads off other turtles or taking a bite out
of anything it comes across. The shells of older
snapping turtles are usually covered in algae,
enhancing their camouflage as they hide in wait
for prey. Adults sometimes travel long distances
△ FEROCIOUS SNAPPER
overland and can end up as traffic fatalities, Given their pugnacious temperament and C. and E. USA
whereas hatchlings are vulnerable to attack by tough carapace, adult “snappers” have few
raccoons, herons, and skunks, as well as other turtles. enemies and can live up to 40 years.
Golden silk 1
/2 —3 in (1.25—7.5 cm)
Not known
Insects

orbweaver
Nephila clavipes
The golden silk orbweaver is one of the largest
American web-spinning spiders. It builds a strong,
semipermanent web between trees in swamps and S. North
woodlands. The web of a mature female may be America to
3 ft (1 m) wide, not including the anchoring strands. South America
The species is named after the yellow-tinged silk of the
web, which may transmit the green light reflecting off
surrounding plants, making it harder to see when in the
◁ LITTLE AND LARGE
shade. When lit by the sun, the silk’s gold color may The male golden silk orbweaver,
attract flower-seeking insects, such as butterflies and seen here next to a potential mate,
bees, which become the spider’s victims. is a fraction of the female’s size.
Costa Rica
Flying high above the tropical rainforest a
scarlet macaw spies some brightly colored
flowers in the canopy. These large parrots
only breed in tree cavities.
Central and South America
K E Y DATA

ECOSYSTEMS

Tropical broadleaf forest


LAND OF THE JAGUAR Tropical dry broadleaf forest
Central and South America Tropical coniferous forest
Temperate broadleaf forest
Mediterranean woodland, scrub
Collectively, Central and South America constitute drier and feature highland plateaus covered with Tropical, subtropical grassland

more than 7 million sq miles (18 million sq km) wooded savanna and wide, grassy plains. This Temperate grassland
Wetlands
of incredibly varied terrain and climate. Forming range of habitats has resulted in a huge diversity
Mediterranean woodland, scrub
South America’s backbone is the world’s longest of plant and animal species, many of them found Montane grassland
mountain range, the Andes, which at its highest nowhere else. Desert, scrub
point reaches almost 23,000 ft (7,000 m) above Historically, the Central American isthmus has
AVERAGE RAINFALL AVERAGE TEMPERATURE
sea level. The massive lowland drainage basin of been an important bridge for the exchange of land
76 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

IN MM °F °C
the Amazon River and its tributaries is filled with animals between North and South America. It is
394 10,000 86 30
lush rainforest, and at the continent’s center is the also a vital flight path for birds migrating along the 68 20
295 7,500
world’s largest tropical wetland, the Pantanal. Pacific Flyway between Alaska, in North America, 50 10
32 0
The south and east of South America tend to be and Patagonia, in South America. 197 5,000
14 -10
98 2,500 -4 -20
-22 -30
LAND LINK TO CARIBBEAN ISLANDS
0 0 -40 -40
NORTH AMERICA The Caribbean has more than

Bah
Gulf of

a
m
Formed around Mexico as 7,000 islands and around 9%
3 million years ago, of the world’s coral reefs.
the isthmus allows
movement of land Cub A M A ZO N R A I N F O R E S T
a
animals between G r e W e
a t
the continents. The largest rainforest on
s t I
Hispanio e r A n t i l l n
la e s d Earth dominates the northern
i half of South America.
Jamaica
e
Puerto Estimated to be at least 55
s
Rico s million years old, the Amazon
is home to a dazzling diversity
Caribbean Sea of animal and plant life. It
lle
ti

Lake contains around 10 percent


wa rd I s l ands

Nicaragua n
A of the world’s known species
ind

Lesser
W

and is a refuge for jaguars,


Lake harpy eagles, and pink
Maracaibo
us
of P
a dolphins, as well as thousands
Isthm oco
Or in of bird and butterfly species.

na
al
A p u re
o s

nt
COSTA RICAN

ma
n

ri
RAINFOREST a

O
Ecotourists flock to view
l

ra
L

ta l
lle
i
the beautiful jungles and
G

iden
ord
their wildlife.

C
ui

O cc
an

ra
a H

ille
th
o

ighland
s ut
M eA

ord
m hs o
R io Ne az f EQUATOR

lC
g ro on
Ilha de
Galapagos Marajó

Rea
AT
Islands A m a z o n azon
A

ma
zon Am
L
GALAPAGOS ISLANDS dos
rra s
OC AN
These volcanic islands are B a s i n do Se rajá
li ra o
ordillera
ei
rra Ca
formed by a mantle plume—
EA TI
ad

C
S e himb
c
M

Juruá Ca
columns of molten rock rising s N C
U caya
ia
ns

P ur u a
from deep within the Earth. íb Planalto da
nti

Nevado
na

A
a gua

Huascaran Borborema
6,768m
Ar

S O U T H
Toca
Par a
o
gu

Or

n
C ie
il
l
Xin
e

rd nta
l ra

ds
A M E R I C A

da
n

dor
ura
d

o
nc
la

o nca
h
Fra

aD
Planalto de

rr
ão

oR
i g isco
Rio S

Se
G Mato Grosso

ad

P
e Lake ra

H
ço

a
err

nd
Titicaca

e
S
ha

nt
in
Lago

a
s

ian
Poopó pó

Al
Esp

na
ia

l
a

ti
i
C

do
z
ad
Salar de

pla
rac
ra
Uyuni

Serr

Ma
Ser aju

no

ATAC A M A D E S E R T

Bra
ra

Desert
o
Pa ira

a de

c
ti que
The Atacama is the driest desert in an

Serr

ha
aM
the world—in some parts of the ad

C
Serr
desert, no rainfall has ever been

uay

n
recorded. Nevertheless, around Cerro Ojos

ar
P H YS I C A L B A R R I E R S

ra g
del Salado

ra
M
6,880m

Pa
500 species of plants and a few

ia
o

Atacama
G

N
arthropods, amphibians, reptiles, Geographic barriers such as rivers

a d

Ser

S
am
birds, and mammals have adapted

r
y separate animal populations,

t
ua

ier
to survive here. These include

ru
Serr
limiting their distribution and

Ge

U
scorpions, salt flat lizards, Humboldt

ras
po
ra
l
encouraging separate species to

o
penguins, and Andean flamingos.

de
develop. Two capuchin species

ra ná
Lagoa dos

es
Pa
Patos
are separated by the Paraná and

Cór

s
C

M
Araguaia rivers. Genetic evidence
I

OCEA
R

dob
Cerro Aconcagua ío indicates that these populations
T

a
6,959m de Mirim
la
P Lagoon separated 2 million years ago.
N

C
lat

s
a
N
A
A

I
e
pa
E
L

F
C
T

I
am
O
A

AC
VALLE DE LA LUNA

P
FERTILE GRASSLANDS
The rich temperate

i a
grasslands of the

n
Argentine pampas
are home to many
unique animals.

F E AT U R E D ECO R EG I O N S

A
AZURA’S CAPUCHIN

Costa Rican Rainforest ›› p78–83


Tropical, subtropical moist
broadleaf forest ANDEAN RAIN SHADOW
Andean Yungas ›› p84–89
Tropical, subtropical moist Much of the south-
broadleaf forest Falkland Rising air cools eastern part of the
P a t a g o n

Amazon Rainforest ›› p90–99 Islands and condenses


continent is dry due
Tropical, subtropical moist to the rain shadow
broadleaf forest
cast by the Andes.
Ra
in

The Pantanal ›› p100–07 Winds from the Pacific


Tierra Prevailing
Wetland: flooded grassland winds Ocean rise and cool
sha

del Fuego
do

Andean Altiplano ›› p108–13 over the mountains,


w

Montane grassland, shrub causing the water


Evaporation
Argentine Pampas ›› p114–21 vapour they contain
Cape Horn Warm
LAND OF THE JAGUAR

Temperate grassland to fall as rain on the


ocean
Galapagos Islands ›› p122–29 STRAIT OF MAGELLAN windward (west) side
Desert, scrub of the mountain range.
Fish move through this sea passage
| 77

between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.


78 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

COSTA RICAN RAINFOREST


A tropical eco-paradise
Costa Rica may be small, but it punches above its size in Conservation leader
terms of biodiversity—it contains 5 percent of all species Costa Rica leads the world in terms of protecting its wild
on just 0.3 percent of the world’s land mass. The Costa heritage. Around a quarter of the country is designated
Rican rainforest is a lush tropical jungle, with verdant as national parks or protected areas, and Costa Rica
foliage, rivers, and waterfalls, and teems with an exotic has been praised as a model of responsible ecotourism as
array of animal life. Many of this rainforest’s inhabitants people flock here to see the region’s myriad of monkey
are dazzlingly beautiful—butterflies and hummingbirds species and unique mammals like sloths. The rate of
flit among trees that are adorned with glorious blooms. deforestation has dramatically decreased since the 1960s
A diverse array of orchid species are found here, and some areas have been successfully reforested. Costa
considering the ecoregion’s comparably small size. Rica has also pioneered payments to landowners for
This bountiful biodiversity is due to Costa Rica’s environmental services to support conservation
location on the land bridge between North and South measures and to keep the rainforest intact.
America, which gives it representatives from both
continents. There is also a range of ecological niches
in the country—as well as the rainforest, there are
damp cloud forests at higher altitudes, dry forests,
and mangrove swamps.

lusively

coevolv r. The two ha ers’


s
ingbird

onias

species
es are
flow
nia

ve

gh bill.
ost exc
f helico

at helic
ink the

only po er flower tub


humm
ITS

by the
g enou
BILL F

are alm
wers o

ed so th
it to dr
ted by

llinated
ab as t tha f the edin rs, a on
su nlig rts tar- ow low eas

s a lon
Tre the ok, b oesn nfor ats

cta
ov ka
ch h
su r pa Nec its fl re b ar
low

IF THE
The flo

ep
es ma en ’t r est

that vis
e

pollina
plants

rich ne
e

with de
th

that ha
at in ra fit f ach
HI erge rest
p
po fy se ind

em inf rom
flu the

EE
GH

OK TR
l l

KAP
i
f

t
o
na ds to n

d rai

RI

t h a n 5 0 s p e c i es of
te

SE h
e

M o re
HE
hig ,
e

o
w

hum
fe

LIC
R

ON
❯ min IA
a

e
g
e

gb
ies
b d
ew

i rd
ec
.
n
n

sp ❯
’s
.

d
o rl
w
e
th
E
GL
EA

of
Y
RP

%
HA

n5
tha

HUGE
o re

The h HUNT
monk arpy e ER
eys an agle h
d sloth unts
om

t s
Its sho he rainfore among
rt, bro st can
easier ad win opy.
f gs
mane or a bird of make it
Home t

uver, a its siz


and p nd e to
owerf its long talo
ul fee
catch t allow ns
and lif it to
t large
prey.
COSTA RICAN RAINFOREST | 79

LO C AT I O N

Costa Rica is located on


the Central American
Honduran white bat
isthmus between North Ectophylla alba
and South America.

NICARAGUA This tiny white bat lives in rainforests where large-leafed


Caribbean heliconia plants are plentiful. Feeding on fruit at night, 2 in (5 cm)
Sea they roost during the day in tents that they construct by 1
⁄4 oz (7.5 g)
San José Limón nibbling either side of a leaf’s midrib so that the sides Near threatened
PACIFIC collapse, forming an inverted V that protects them from Fruit pulp, fig seeds
OCEAN rain and sun. Their snow-white fur is tinted green as
0 km 100 sunlight filters through the bright green leaves, thus
PANAMA
0 miles 100
camouflaging them from potential predators.

C L I M AT E

Costa Rica has a dry, tropical climate. The


Caribbean has a more even spread of rain
than the Pacific side.
Central
°F °C (Limón) MM IN America
104 40 420 16 1⁄2

86 30 315 12 1⁄2

68 20 210 8 1⁄2 ◁ LEAF TENT


Honduran white bats roost in groups
50 10 105 4 1⁄4 of 4–10, usually a single male and his
harem of females, underneath a leaf
32 0 0 0 6 ft (2 m) off the ground.
Jan
Feb

Sep
Oct
Nov
Apr

Jul
Mar

May

Aug

Dec
Jun

Key Average temperature Rainfall

Hoffmann’s 22—30 in (56—76 cm)


9—19 lb (4—8.6 kg)
Common

two-toed sloth Leaves, buds, fruit, sap

Choloepus hoffmanni
Sloths live in slow motion to conserve energy. Their
Central
metabolism is about 50 percent slower than that of other America,
similarly sized mammals. Their intestine is shorter than N. and W.
S a carnivore’s—a trait usually associated with a fast-acting
CIE South America
S PE
A ded reys as digestion—yet the plant-based diet takes 6–21 days to be
LL a p h
B RE k-he iper , suc ls, digested. This, however, allows sloths to extract the
UM blac ter v mals upia ws
75

e s
Th hma mam mar burro
s maximum nutrition from low-energy food and
s l
bu smal s and gs in als. ies
0,

t
may also help neutralize toxins. Awkward
on y ra its eg anim spec s.
00

n r s r and vulnerable on the ground, where


spi lays othe f thi othe
n d by n o ny the sloth descends once a week
0s

a de o ma
ati
ma serv nefit to defecate, the algae in its fur
n e
Co ld b
pec

u conceals it in the trees from


wo
predators such as harpy
ies

eagles and jaguars.


BUS
of i n s
HMA

▷ HANGING AROUND
STER V

Sloths spend most of their lives in


trees, where they eat, sleep, mate, and
ect
IP E R

give birth—all while dangling upside


down from their huge, hooked claws.
80 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

Ocelots are good swimmers


distinctive chainlike
rosettes and will catch fish, turtles,
and frogs

Ocelot short, dense fur

Leopardus pardalis
The ocelot is the largest of three small, spotted cats
native to Central and South American forests.
Its patterned coat and stealthy, mainly nocturnal,
habits ensure that the cat is rarely seen. Much
of what we know about the species comes from
analyzing its droppings, and radio-tracking.
Ocelots have been tracked traveling long
distances at night, with adult females
ranging up to 3 miles (4 km) and males
5 miles (7.5 km).

Lone ranger
Ocelots become active in the late afternoon,
and hunt by patrolling areas of thick cover.
They prefer to feed on small ground-dwelling
rodents, particularly rats, but can take young
deer, wild pigs, and sloths. More unusual prey
include lizards, land crabs, birds, fish, and frogs.
Ocelots are agile climbers, often resting in trees
during the day. Like most cats, they are solitary—adults
socialize only during the breeding season. An adult
male’s home range overlaps with that of several females.
The females breed once every two years and usually
give birth to just one cub after 80 days.

◁ AMBITIOUS HUNTER
Ocelots will catch prey
half their weight, such
as green iguanas. To
avoid the reptile’s claws
and lashing tail, a
hunting ocelot will aim front paws
for the fleshy throat for larger than
rear paws
a quick dispatch.

▷ DAPPLED FUR
The ocelot’s spotted coat
provides excellent
camouflage among
foliage. In the past,
this species was
heavily hunted to
supply the fur trade.
COSTA RICAN RAINFOREST | 81

20—39 in (50—100 cm)


25—35 lb (11.5—16 kg)
Common
Resplendent
Mammals
quetzal
Pharomachrus mocinno
Quetzals are a group of glossy
birds found in tropical forests. 14—26 in (35—651/2 cm)
The resplendent quetzal is the 7—8 oz (200—225 g)
most extravagantly plumed, but Near threatened
S. North
America
when perched, upright, still, Fruit, insects
to S. South and silent, its long, green back
America makes it inconspicuous in the
forest. It mostly eats fruit,
especially wild avocados, but
will occasionally feed on insects,
small frogs, lizards, and snails.
Pairs are territorial, and they
carve out a nest hole in a rotting
tree. The female lays one or two Central
America
eggs, which are incubated by
both parents for 18 days. The
male and female also take turns
feeding the chicks; however,
▷ SPLENDID PLUMES
often only the male continues Resplendent quetzals are aptly named
to do so for the last few days after the vibrant tail feathers of
before the chicks can fly. breeding males.

Common morpho
Morpho peleides
When viewed at rest with its wings folded up, the blues and turquoises. Visible even in the thick
common morpho’s wings are brown with several foliage, the shimmering wings allow the
large eyespots. However, in flight, the upper butterflies to spot one another—males keep their
wings produce a startling display of iridescent distance, while females seek out mates.

white marks
4—5 in (9.5—12 cm) on dark ◁ VARIOUS FORMS
fringe
Not known Common morphos vary
Juices of ripe fruits greatly in color and form,
with different markings
on the wing margins and
fringes, and there are
several subspecies.

Central black-and-yellow-
America ringed eyespots
to N. South
America
82 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

bright green upper body


provides camouflage

Red-eyed
tree frog orange feet hidden
Agalychnis callidryas when at rest

The red-eyed tree frog is an iconic rainforest a good jumper, but it also climbs up trees, gripping
amphibian. As its name suggests, it has striking red branches with the suction cups at the tips of its fingers
eyes, although these are usually hidden from view. and toes. Unlike most frogs, the red-eyed tree frog can
To camouflage itself against leaves, it makes itself look swim, although the adult spends most of its life in trees.
small by tucking its legs against the body so that only It visits water regularly—often just the puddles formed on
the green upper surfaces are in view. The eyes are shut leaves—to absorb water through the thin skin on its belly. distinctive blue
to conceal the telltale red irises. When a predator gets and yellow markings
too close, the frog flashes its eyes wide open, startling Show of strength on sides
it momentarily. As it leaps to safety, extending its legs Mating takes place in the rainy season. Males, who adopt
to a full stretch, it reveals yet more hidden color on its prominent perches, initiate courtship through a croaking
flanks and thighs. call. They also quiver their body so much that the
surrounding leaves begin to shake. This show of strength
Agile climber attracts females, and when one gets near, all the
The red-eyed tree frog is a nocturnal insect hunter. The males in the area fight to mate with her.
vertical diamond shape of its iris shows that it is focused The winner fertilizes her egg
on tracking the vertical movements of insects marching clutches as she lays them on
up and down tree trunks. Like all frogs, the tree frog is leaves in several batches.

▷ FLASH COLORING
The bright blue and yellow flanks of
the red-eyed tree frog are only visible
when the frog is on the move. The
flash of color startles predators as the
frog makes a hasty escape.
COSTA RICAN RAINFOREST | 83

◁ MATING PAIR
The male clambers
on to the female’s back
to mate. Mating takes
several hours, with the
smaller male clinging
to the female as she
searches for places
to lay her eggs.

△ FROGSPAWN
The red-eyed tree frog’s eggs are laid
on a leaf hanging over a pond or a
stream. When the tadpoles emerge,
vertical pupil
they fall into the water below.

2—3 in (4—7 cm)


pads on toes Summer
help with grip
Locally common
Insects

Red-eyed tree frogs can lighten


and darken their skin color
for camouflage or to signal Central
America

a change in mood
8 4 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

ANDEAN YUNGAS
A species-rich forest reaching into the clouds
The Andean yungas ecoregion covers the eastern slope effects of altitude sickness. In addition to the vast array
of the Andes mountain range, from 3,300-11,500 ft (1,000- of plants, around 200 species of vertebrate live here. The
3,500 m). It is sandwiched between the lowlands of the Andean yungas is known as a biological hotspot because
Amazon basin and Gran Chaco grasslands to the east it is home to many endemic species and because species
and the high plateau of the Andean altiplano to the west. from neighboring ecoregions—such as the Amazon
The yungas features dramatically varied topography with rainforest—also live here.
high ridges and steep-sided valleys created by mountain Native species are often restricted to “altitudinal belts,”
rivers. The range in altitude produces different climatic which means they are only found at certain altitudes,
zones, which in turn create various habitat types, either because they cannot physically cross certain
including moist lowland forest, deciduous and evergreen geographic barriers such as rivers or mountains, or
upland forests, and subtropical cloud forests. they only eat vegetation that grows at certain altitudes.

A hotspot for diversity


Among the more than 3,000 species of plants are tree
ferns, bamboo, Peruvian pepper trees, and the coca bush.
Coca leaves have been chewed or brewed as a tea for
centuries by the people of the Andes to counter the

ism. Th high
as dam rous in cloud
ey are

e on
of orch ins 200

tree tru hytes to thriv s


ition
a

hes.
id, with

rocky c tes
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p cond

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HAVEN

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Ne cov s de cau lora ag e

nks an
re also
w
dis Thi be d co oufl n th d

RE ies

ORCHID

ow on
pip
sp red ad-le e its ion d
so sha fect d lea s de in 20

species
The yu
CE

level of
particu
ec
-ca pe ly

forests
allow e
NT re s yun d is
e

There a
ag st fl and

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that gr
for

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a h e oa
ain oo

TOAD
e

SC
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s

D
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s ❯ N ew s p e c i e
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a

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r. nam

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MO
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y

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With a STRANGER
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long- –1,000 of
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discov whiskered , the


er owlet
meas ed in 1976 wa
ures ju in Per s
st 6 in u. It
heig
M a ny s

(1 5
inspire ht. Its whis cm) in
d the kery f
L ace
genus atin name
, Xeno of its
g
mean laux, which
s stra
nge o
wl.
ANDEAN YUNGAS | 85

LO C AT I O N
Guayaquil
PERU
Mountain
BRAZIL

Lima
BO
LI
tapir short, extensible
trunk
Tapirus pinchaque
V

La Paz The Andean


IA

yungas covers the


C H I L E

eastern flank of
PACIFIC
the Andes
OCEAN The mountain tapir is the smallest, most endangered of
mountain range
from Peru in the all four tapir species—fewer than 2,500 are thought to 6—7 ft (1.8—2.1 m)
0 km 500 north to Argentina survive in the wild. It makes its home high in the Andes, 330—440 lb (150—200 kg)
in the south. where its fur, which grows to 2 in (5 cm) thick, Endangered
0 miles 500
has earned it the nickname “woolly tapir.” Leaves, herbs, grasses, fruit
C L I M AT E
Snorkeling for safety
Climate ranges from temperate to tropical, Short, stocky legs and splayed toes make the mountain
depending on altitude. Moist montane forest with
frequent low-level cloud is called cloud forest.
tapir sure-footed and agile, capable of negotiating steep
slopes and dense undergrowth. Like other tapirs, it hides
°F °C (Palos Blancos, Bolivia) MM IN
in thickets by day, feeding mainly at dawn and dusk.
140 60 280 11
It has a keen sense of hearing and smell, and flees when
113 45 210 8 1/4 threatened, often hiding underwater and using its trunk
like a snorkel to breathe until danger passes. Tapirs call NW. South
86 30 140 5 1/2 America
to each other with shrill, high-pitched whistles that are
59 15 70 2 3/4
often mistaken for birdsong.

32 0 0 0
◁ LONG STRIPES
Jan
Feb

Sep
Oct
Nov
Apr

Jul
Mar

May

Aug

Dec
Jun

Young tapirs are often called


Key Average temperature Rainfall “watermelons on legs” due to their
camouflage markings, which allow
them to blend in with dappled sunlight.

ER e
DE h
E ST u is t eer,
LL pud st d m)

A
SM tiny malle (38 c It
e .
Th ld’s s 15 in ulder of
M

r
wo nding e sho work dden s
os

t
sta at th a ne ell-tro unga
ta

l
tal s on nd w the y
ie a t s.
rel nels ough ive i ator distinctive
re a

u n h r o g re d white lips
t hs t n t p
t o m
pa etati n fro
sa

g
ve tectio
pro
re p

▷ GRIPPING SNOUT
The mountain tapir feeds
using its flexible nose
NORT
ro te c

to grasp vegetation,
HERN P

dispersing up to 86
species of plant seeds
te d

in the process of eating soles of feet are


UDU

and digestion. soft and sensitive


86 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

Silky anteater
fine, dense
fur

Cyclopes didactylus
The world’s smallest anteater is not much longer than a
human hand. Seldom seen, silky anteaters live on trees, 7—9 in (16—21 cm)
feed from sunset to sunrise on as many as 5,000 ants each 6—13 oz (175—357 g)
night, and rest through the day. While the nocturnal habit Common
protects them from humans, these anteaters are preyed Ants, termites, ladybugs
upon by harpy eagles, hawks, and spectacled owls.

Silken disguise
Silky anteaters live in silk floss trees, which provide
the perfect camouflage for the anteater with its long,
fine, smoky-gray fur. Each front foot of the anteater has Central
two enlarged claws, which are perfect for climbing and America to N.
digging into tree-ant nests but must be turned inward South America
for it to move on the ground. Although the silky anteater
rarely comes to the ground, it walks well on flat surfaces
and has been seen crossing roads. It also has a prehensile
tail and specially adapted hindfeet that wrap firmly
around branches, allowing it to move through the canopy.
After mating, a single baby anteater is born in a leaf-
lined nest usually situated in a tree hollow. Both parents ◁ FAST ASLEEP
raise the baby, feeding it regurgitated ants. Males carry The silky anteater spends its daylight
hours sleeping high in the safety of
the babies on their backs. trees, often simply hanging from its
hooklike front claws, prehensile tail,
and wraparound hindfeet.

South American coati


Nasua nasua
Coatis move easily between different environments. ▽ HEALTHY APPETITE
Although terrestrial, coatis mate, give birth, and sleep Active and inquisitive members of
the raccoon family, coatis feed on
in trees. Good climbers with powerful forelegs, they everything from small mammals,
rotate their ankle joints to descend headfirst from trees, birds, and insects to
but easily jump from branch to branch, using their long fruit and leaves.
tails for balance. They are also good swimmers. Strong
claws and a flexible nose make them expert foragers.
Female coatis form bands of up to 65 animals.
17—23 in (43—58 cm)
During the mating season, each band is joined by
5—16 lb (2—7.2 kg)
a male, which mates with all receptive females,
Common
then departs. Litters of one to seven young
Fungi, berries, insects, mice
are born in spring and early summer.
The females rejoin their band once the
youngsters can walk and climb.

W. South
America

banded tail
ANDEAN YUNGAS | 87

4—6 ft (1.3—1.9 m)
132—390 lb (60—175 kg)
Vulnerable
creamy white Fruit, succulent plants, birds
markings

Spectacled W. South
America

bear
Tremarctos ornatus
South America’s only bear is also one of its largest
land mammals. Just 2–3 ft (60–90 cm) high at the
shoulder, they make their homes in a variety of
Andean habitats, ranging from cloud forests to
high-level grasslands bordering rainforests.
Spectacled bears spend much of their time in trees,
where they build a platform of sticks to sleep on
and forage from. They eat fruit, flowers, and
succulent plants. They also sometimes hunt
insects, birds, and small rodents.
The bears are solitary except during the
mating season, from April to June, when a
male and female stay together for up to two
weeks. Cubs are born from December to
February. Males do not play any part in
raising the young, and may even kill
cubs. While pumas and jaguars prey
upon the cubs, the greatest threat to
the species comes from habitat loss
and hunting by humans.

▷ DISTINCTIVE MARKINGS
The spectacled bear gets
its name from the cream
or yellow markings around
its eyes. These markings
often extend down
to its chest.
88 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

slender, tiltable wings

long, needlelike bill for


reaching deep into flowers

Booted racket-tail
hummingbird
Ocreatus underwoodii
Tiny clumps of loose white feathers on
the thighs make the booted racket-tail a member of
a group of hummingbirds called pufflegs. It is a common
species in humid forests. Hummingbirds hover by shiny green
flapping their wings in a figure-eight pattern. These plumage
remarkable birds can fly sideways and even backward.
Hummingbirds feed on nectar from scented, sugar-
rich flowers, often red blossoms, hovering while licking
up fluid with their long, slender tongue. They snap up
small insects, too, and females capture thousands
to provide growing chicks with vital protein.

Polygamous parents
Male booted racket-tails demonstrate their fitness to
females in rapid, swooping display flights. The showiest
males mate with several females, and each female may
mate with a number of males, but she alone makes the △ MID-AIR HOSTILITY
nest and rears her brood of two chicks. The nest Males defend feeding
of fibers and moss is a tiny cup, placed on a bare, territories around fresh
horizontal twig. It has a strong, elastic binding blossoms, chasing off
other males and even
of cobwebs that expands as the chicks grow. bumblebees, with aerial
displays and rapid
darting flights.

7—9 in (17—23 cm)


1
/8 oz (3 g)
Common
Nectar, insects, spiders long tail adornment
of male

NW. to W.
South
America

Booted racket-tails beat their


wings 60 times per second
when hovering
ANDEAN YUNGAS | 89

Andean cock-of-the-rock
Rupicola peruvianus
In sheltered, moist ravines and river valleys high in the
cloud forests of the Andes, male Andean cock-of-the- 12—13 in (30—32 cm)
rocks gather to display for the benefit of the watching 7—10 oz (200—275 g)
females. A chorus of squawks accompanies the rather Locally common
awkward performance, drawing attention even to birds Fruit, insects
deep within the forest canopy. The males are at risk
of predation during courtship, with various forest cats,
birds of prey, and snakes likely to attack them. At other
times, they are quiet and inconspicuous.

Mud nests
Females, which are not as colorful as the males and
have less exaggerated crests, make a cup-shaped nest of N. to W.
mud and saliva, plastered against a rock or inside a small South
cave. They incubate two eggs for up to a month and feed America
the hatchlings on their own. The cock-of-the-rock’s
main diet consists of a range of fruits, supplemented
with a supply of insects.

◁ DISPLAYING MALE
Males compete in communal displays
in a tree, bowing, flapping their
wings, and calling discordantly.
Their actions and sounds intensify
if a female appears.

Trueb’s cochran frog Crimson longwing


Nymphargus truebae Heliconius erato

yellow-spotted
Trueb’s cochran frog is a species green skin
Known for its wide, rounded
of glass frog, so-called because black wings with flashes of 2—3 in (5.5—8 cm)
its skin is translucent on the red on the upper surface, the Common
underside, making it possible to crimson-patched longwing is a Pollen and nectar
see its bones and internal organs. highly variable butterfly with no
This tiny native of the Andean fewer than 29 subspecies. Each Central and South America
cloud forest is nocturnal, subspecies has a unique wing
sleeping through the day on pattern, some without any red
leaves in the treetops. The green markings. The species as a
of the leaves shows through the whole is found all over Central
frog’s skin, helping it to blend in and South America.
△ LONG LIMBS
easily and stay hidden. To complicate things further, crimson wing
Trueb’s cochran frog is wide-skulled band
Females lay eggs on leaves and long-limbed. Its eyes are placed every subspecies mimics the
above pools of water, and the at the top of the head. coloring of the subspecies
males guard them until they of another equally variable
hatch. The tadpoles plummet longwing called the common
into the water below, where 7
⁄8 —1 in (22.5—25 mm) postman, or Heliconius melpomene,
they feed among the detritus Not known that lives in the same habitat.
at the bottom. Not known
Insects
▷ PERUVIAN NATIVE
The crimson longwing subspecies
S. Peru pictured lives in the lowland forests
of Peru.
9 0 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

AMAZON EA
NT
S
ye a
rs ❯
lion
RAINFOREST M
ra any
inf
o pa
pr res rts
es t fl of IVIN
L f o
FIR

r 55
mi

One of the most productive an un


t d
en
t
cr ng
i
oo th
d p e A G RA
of s. Du ergr eat a pr riod azo T
e m F nc
e
te
ecoregions on Earth th r i o u
ur
ou e an ng fl nd s th lem lly,
e o b i ca n

is
t o t c oo suc at fo

ex
f o d h n r
qu w the lon s, m as est
ee hic ir y f e fi

in
n a h e ow or mb e r
re g n m e
ke gs, bod a ra rs

en
The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical pt lar ie f
sa va s o t

Be
rainforest, covering 2.1 million sq miles fe e, n
an an
dd d
(5.5 million sq km) of the drainage basin fed ry.
by the long and winding river that


shares its name. The rainforest is

re s t
among the most productive and
biodiverse ecoregions on the

fo
planet, containing around

t r o p i c a l ra i n
10 percent of all the world’s

AGOUTI
known species and potentially
many more that have yet to be
discovered. The huge variety of plants
provides a multitude of habitats and food
for a myriad of different animal species.
a rg e s t
It is also important because it stores large
amounts of carbon—110–154 billion tons
(100–140 billion metric tons) —that would ER
ERS w
otherwise be in the atmosphere. ISP
l

D D e ef
SEE e of th naw
s

n g

o
ti is le to of
rld

a gou als ab h fruit s


Life among the layers Th e n i m u g e it
a e to ea s
h th t to rel its are
o

Overwhelmingly green to look at, with u g


thro azil nu en fru rplus
ew

bright flashes of color from flowers, fruit, Br Wh ds su far


the eeds. ar n
s i t ho r, ofte ere
h

t, te
monkeys, and birds, the rainforest consists of d a n l a , wh
T

u n o r e e t
ab ds f t tr bou
several different layers. The tallest trees project see paren otten a ees.
the forg tr
ew
from ay be into n

above the main rainforest canopy, which itself m w


they and gro
forms the middle layer. This layer is the most
a c

diverse, and beneath it lie the understory and


ri e

then ground level, where much less light—and


PA

m
RA

moisture—penetrates. The lush jungle foliage A


RU

BE
B

h
slows the speed of rain falling to the forest floor, R
TR ut
where deep soil and decaying plant matter act EE
f So
o
like a sponge, holding water and slowly releasing %
it to streams and rivers. 40
e rs Cov ❯
M
r
BOO
bbe
y
glov r boots s such d
ake This sa se milk

as
use

trea r is che latex


u

ally
tree rk of t BBER
late cut to Para r

item duce
as t ch
.
p is

Vegetation can be so thick,


ires
mic

s su
l ea

and

ro
RU

be oduct
e

to p
r
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rain may take 10 minutes to


ted
pr

her
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x sa
ba
is

toug

reach the ground


rub
to m
The
AMAZON RAINFOREST | 91

regu ne toa azon,

s
how ii and A cies in
intro tors. As any

of co ibian br oisonou
alia,
m
pred ated by is

out
d sp n
m
the native A
d

a
HAB RAL

ustr
e

eeds
ITAT

p
U
LO C AT I O N

, this
NAT

duce
ca
In its

l
a

ever

l.
ntro
a
The Amazon rainforest

Haw

h

amp
stretches across nine South
Co n t American countries: Brazil,
ain
sa French Guiana, Suriname,
ro u Guyana, Venezuela, Colombia,
nd Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
39 CA
0 NE VENEZUELA 0 km 500
bi T
lli

OA
0 miles 500
COLOMBIA

D
Bogotá ATLANTIC
on OCEAN
d
tr ND ize
R OU ant-s
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ING phe a
so L IMB l and , with st of ins
C f u s ce
o r i r d r atz
Col dult b head ks, ho h
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c
eta . Th ltho
d i ff

veg to fly e adu C L I M AT E
l e o r
ab s bef
w
cla
e re n

The Amazon rainforest’s climate is tropical and


humid. Although all months are wet, rainfall is
greatest between December and April, when
t species

more than 8 in (200 mm) of rain falls on average


each month in Manaus, the region’s largest city.

°F °C (Manaus, Brazil) MM IN
140 60 300 12
HOATZIN CHICK

122 50 250 10

104 40 200 8

86 30 150 6
An e

68 20 100 4

50 10 50 2
st i m

32 0 Jan 0 0
Feb

Sep
Oct
Nov
Apr

Jul
Mar

May

Aug

Dec
Jun
a te

EN Key Average temperature Rainfall


V
d

Tw IRO
o N
riv spe ME
2

e
do r do cies
NT D E F O R E S TAT I O N
.5

l o AL
are phin lphin f Am MO
N
m

he goo and , the azo ITO The Amazon rainforest is being felled at such
alt d t h p n R
il

ec i e t ink
o h o nd a rate that an estimated 135 plant and animal
Few syst f the icato ucux river
lio

species become extinct daily. The sustainable


wh er d ems fres rs o i,
n

f
de ere t olph they hwa the harvest of rubber and other wild products, such
s

wa grad here ins a inh ter


pe as Brazil nuts, helps to protect the rainforest
a
ci by ter q ation is e re fo bit. from the devastating effects of total land
lar ua , x
ge lity such istin und
es clearance for projects such as soy plantations.
hu g
of ma and o as p rive
n p ve oor r
ins op rfis
ula hin
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ts ns
l i ve .
N
HI
h e re O LP
❯ RD
IVE
KR
PI N
92 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

Emperor tamarin tail twice as long as


Saguinus imperator head and body

Tamarins are small monkeys with silky fur, and a variety of plant food, particularly berries and
many species also have elaborate facial patterns, other fruit, and flowers, nectar, tree sap, and
crests, beards, or mustaches. Notable, too, for its leaves. They also hunt insects, snails, frogs,
long orange-red tail, the emperor tamarin lives and small lizards, snatching prey off foliage
in small families in the lower and middle levels of with their dextrous hands. The female usually
rainforests, and these families often forage together bears twins, which the father carries except
with saddleback tamarins. Emperor tamarins eat when they are being suckled.

9—10 in (23—26 cm)


16 oz (450 g)
Common
Fruit, nectar, insects

◁ DROOPING
MUSTACHE
Both adult male and
W. South female emperor
America tamarins have a flowing
white mustache.
The long white curls
reach down as far as
their forearms.

Pygmy
marmoset
Cebuella pygmaea
△ MANED MONKEY
Pygmy marmosets have long cheek
This minuscule, hyperactive primate is the world’s hair that forms a mane, hiding their
smallest monkey—a curled-up adult pygmy marmoset ears from view.
would fit into a human palm. Pygmy marmosets keep
to dense thickets and tangles of vegetation in the lower
5—6 in (12—15 cm) 20—25 in (50—63 cm)
levels of forests, hiding from predators such as other
3—5 oz (85—140 g) 11—20 lb (5—9 kg)
monkeys, forest cats, hawks, and snakes. They are
Common Common
exceptionally agile and, despite their tiny size, can leap
Tree sap, invertebrates Fruit, leaves
up to 16 ft (5 m).
Pygmy marmosets live in small family groups, usually
consisting of a breeding pair and up to seven or eight
young of varying ages, and most births are twins. Unlike
other marmosets, they don’t move around their home
range in a group when feeding during the day, but they
spend the night sleeping together in a huddle. They feed W. South NW. South
mainly on the sugary gum or sap of trees, by gouging America America
the bark with their sharp lower incisors and then lapping
up the liquid that flows out.
AMAZON RAINFOREST | 93

thick, muscular tail

Red howler
monkey
Alouatta seniculus
The growling roars of red howler monkeys are
among the most distinctive sounds of the Amazonian
rainforest. Just before dawn, each troop starts to call
from the treetops to announce ownership of their home
range, and other groups in the area may reply. Adapted
hyoid bones in the monkeys’ throat amplify the sounds,
which can be heard up to 3 miles (5 km) away. Both
sexes roar. Male howlers react most to the calls of males
in neighboring troops, while females respond most
to the roars of other females, which are higher pitched.

Chunky monkeys
Red howlers are big, solid monkeys that move more
slowly than many other monkeys. They typically spend
most of their waking hours resting or digesting food
in the forest canopy. Their prehensile tails have a bald
patch near the underside of the tip to help grip branches.
They feed on leaves and fruit—especially figs—and
when they find a large fruiting tree, will guard it against
rival groups. Red howlers periodically go to the ground
to eat clay, which contains salts and minerals that help
to neutralize toxins in the leaves they eat.
A red howler monkey troop usually has from three
to a dozen members, led by an adult male that remains
dominant for several years. Females mate for the first
time when around five years old, giving birth to a single
baby after a seven-month gestation. Babies cling to
their mother’s belly for the first month, then ride
piggyback, and are independent at six months old.
△ BEARDED MALE
Adult male howler
Despite their large size, red howler monkeys are preyed
monkeys, which are on by harpy eagles. On spotting danger, they quickly
much heavier than grunt warnings to alert the rest of the group.
females, have a long,
full beard.

▷ URSINE HOWLERS
Many howler monkeys Howler monkeys
are named after their
predominant fur color.
There are brown and
are the loudest land
black species as well as
ones with red fur, such animals—their calls
as the ursine howler
(A. arctoidea). reach 90 decibels
94 |

4—6 ft (1.1—1.7 m)
70—270 lb (32—122 kg)
Near threatened
Mammals, reptiles, birds

Central America
to N. and C.
South America

▷ ON THE PROWL
A jaguar’s broad, fur-soled paws make
no sound as it moves through dense
vegetation, and its dappled coat helps
it blend into the surroundings, making
this cat the ultimate stealth hunter.
AMAZON RAINFOREST | 95

unique pattern of rosettes


on each individual

deep-chested body

Jaguar short, powerful legs

Panthera onca
The western hemisphere’s largest feline is the least
well-studied—scientists have no idea how many jaguars Adult male jaguars
are left in the wild. This secretive cat once roamed
forests from the southwestern US to Argentina, but can break through
it now occupies only about 45 percent of its original
range, due to human intervention. Today, it is confined bone and turtle shell
to 19 Latin American countries.
in a single bite
Formidable predator
The epitome of the opportunistic hunter, jaguars feed on
a range of mammals, from deer and peccaries to coatis Like lions and tigers, jaguars can roar, but they
and monkeys. They also eat insects, fish, birds, caimans, communicate more frequently using coughs, growls,
anacondas, and eggs. There has been just one, recent, grunts, “huffs,” and low moans.
instance of a jaguar eating a human; however, when Jaguars are solitary animals that only pair up to
faced with habitat loss due to human encroachment, breed. Females give birth to one to four cubs, which are
they will prey on livestock and domestic pets. born with sky-blue eyes that turn green-gold in a few
An efficient predator, the jaguar’s immense jaw weeks. Their head and paws grow more quickly than the
strength allows it to pierce the skull of its victims. rest of their bodies. Cubs are independent at 15 months
It usually hunts at dusk or dawn, when its dappled but may remain in their mother’s territory until they are
coat provides maximum camouflage, but is more about two years old.
nocturnal where people are present. An adult male An estimated six percent of jaguars have a genetic
needs about 100 sq miles (260 sq km) of territory to mutation that gives them a “dark phase” coat color.
hunt—this can range from humid rainforest, dry Dark coated jaguars and leopards are called panthers,
pine woods, swamp, scrubland, savanna, to desert. although the characteristic rosettes are still visible.

△ SKILFUL SWIMMER
Powerfully muscled legs make jaguars strong
swimmers—one was seen crossing a river to
attack a caiman basking on a sandbank.

▷ AT THE WATER’S EDGE


Generally considered a jungle creature, the jaguar
can adapt to almost any habitat, provided there is
water and prey nearby. In the wild, the jaguar’s
lifespan is 10—12 years.
96 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

oversized yet
lightweight bill

white bib on
black body

Toco toucan
Ramphastos toco
Few birds worldwide are as instantly recognizable as
the toco toucan, with its huge, colorful bill. The long The toco toucan has the largest bill
bill is useful for reaching fruit on the ends of branches
that are too thin to support the toucan’s weight. It can
also be used to grab small reptiles, eggs and nestlings,
of any bird, relative to body size
and large insects, if fruit is scarce. The bill’s bright
color must act as a visual stimulus in social situations, that controls the flow of blood to its surface. In cool
although it is identical in both sexes. It also serves spells, the blood flow is restricted, allowing the toucan
as a striking warning to predators. to conserve its body heat. During the night, it sleeps
with the bill under a wing, to maintain heat.
Cool discovery Tocos are weak fliers. They flutter through the forest
Scientists have recently discovered another use for canopy, usually in pairs, to find fruiting trees. Tree
▽ PROMINENT BILL
the toco toucan’s enormous bill: it has an important cavities are often enlarged for the nest, in which two
Despite its size, the toco toucan’s bill
function as a radiator. When temperatures are high, to four eggs are incubated by both parents. They defend is comparatively light because it is
the toucan can lose up to 60 percent of its body heat the chicks from predators, such as snakes, as it takes mostly hollow, with a supporting
through the bill, which has a network of blood vessels several months for a chick’s bill to be fully formed. framework of bony struts.
AMAZON RAINFOREST | 97

22—24 in (56—61 cm)


18—30 oz (510—850 g)
Common
Scarlet macaw
Fruit, eggs, insects, frogs Ara macao
Macaws are huge parrots with long tails and massive
bare white bills. The scarlet macaw—one of the largest members of
skin on face
this group—is a native of humid tropical forests. It lives
in the dense tree canopy and communicates with
far-carrying, ear-splitting screeches.
NE. to Scarlet macaws typically live in pairs—they pair for
C. South
America
life—but often assemble in noisy groups, resting in tall
trees. They eat nuts and seeds, cracking open tough
shells with their
powerful bills, as
33—35 in (84—89 cm)
well as fruit, flowers,
2—3 lb (0.9—1.4 kg)
and leaves. Large
Common
flocks gather at
Nuts, seeds, fruit
vertical clay cliffs,
where they scrape
up the soil with
their tongues. The
minerals help to
neutralize toxins
in their food that Central
would be fatal to America to
△ STRONG FLIGHT N. South
Long, wide wings and powerful chest
most birds. In the America
muscles help the scarlet macaw speed wild, scarlet macaws
through the air, aided by its flexible tail. can live for 50 years.

Emerald
tree boa
Corallus caninus
Well camouflaged among fresh green
foliage, this nonvenomous tree boa has
a wide head, powerful jaws, and very long,
curved teeth. These are used to grab
passing prey such as bats, arboreal rodents,
5—6 ft (1.5—1.8 m)
lizards, and birds, while the snake remains
Up to 7 lb (3.2 kg)
securely anchored to a branch by its strong
Not known
prehensile tail. Small victims are quickly
Bats, rats, birds
swallowed whole, whereas more substantial
prey is first suffocated by constriction.
Male emerald tree boas mature when
three or four years old. They are slightly
smaller and slimmer than females, which
mature a year later. Mating occurs between
May and July, and the female gives birth to △ READY TO STRIKE
5–20 live young six months later. The baby The emerald tree boa
strikes out at airborne N. South
boas are red or orange in color, changing to prey or hangs from a America
green after about a year. There is no low branch to snatch its
parental care. victim from the ground.
98 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

long, cylindrical

Dyeing poison frog Electric eel body

Dendrobates tinctorius Electrophorus electricus

Dyeing poison frogs live on or The electric eel is one of the


near the forest floor and are 1—2 in (3—5 cm) largest freshwater fish in South 7—8 ft (2—2.5 m)
mostly active by day. Males set February, March America. It uses weak electrical 44 lb (20 kg)
up breeding territories and call Common pulses to find its way around Common
for females, which may fight Ants, termites, spiders and locate food in murky inland Fish, shrimp, crabs
to win courtship rights. The waters, such as rivers and ponds.
winning female initiates mating NE. South America It also produces larger electric N. South America
by stroking the male’s snout shocks of around 600 volts that
with her back feet. Six eggs are can kill other fish and even stun a
laid on a leaf and the male keeps human. The pulses are generated
them moist. The tadpoles hatch by organs of electrogenesis,
after about 14 days and both which have about 5,000 to 6,000
parents carry them on their modified muscle cells called
backs to a bromeliad pool. electroplaques, running along
almost the entire length of the
fish’s body.
▷ COLOR VARIETIES
This pattern is typical of the species,
with blue legs and belly, and broad ▷ DECEPTIVE APPEARANCE
yellow and black stripes on the back. Although it looks like an eel, the electric
Many other varieties exist using the eel is a type of knifefish that shares a
same colors in different proportions. common ancestor with catfish.

Leaf-cutter ant 1
/16—3/4 in (2—22 mm)
Common
Fungus
Atta cephalotes
Leaf-cutter ants live in extensive underground nests, they act as soldiers and guard the colony against
with each colony consisting of millions of individuals. intruders. The colony’s single queen lays thousands
To feed the colony, small worker ants called “minimas” of eggs every day.
tend a fungus that grows on a mulch of cut leaves. This
fungus can only survive inside the ants’ nest, and Central
▽ HARD AT WORK
needs their help to propagate. The pieces of leaf are cut A media worker can carry 50 times its own body America to N.
and carried back to the nest by medium-sized “media” weight. Leaf-cutters are also known as “parasol” South America
workers. The largest workers are called “maximas;” ants because of the way they hold the leaves.
AMAZON RAINFOREST | 99

Up to 11 in (28 cm)
Not known
Insects, frogs, mice
front legs and
pedipalps raised
in threat posture

Goliath
birdeater
NE. South
America

Theraphosa blondi
Regarded as the largest spider in the world, this tarantula ◁ DEFENCE STANCE
has a leg span that could cover a dinner plate, and When threatened, the spider
a mass of about 6 oz (170 g), which far outweighs any raises up its front legs and shows
off its hooked fangs. Defensive
of its rivals. Only Asia’s giant huntsman spider has bites are “dry,” saving venom.
a larger leg span. Goliath birdeater females are much
larger than the males. The name “birdeater” is based on
a 1705 engraving by German naturalist Maria Sibylla
Merian, which showed a Goliath birdeater devouring
a hummingbird. The tarantula has 1-in- (2-cm-) long
fangs, so it may be possible for it to prey on small birds,
but its preferred diet is large insects and frogs and mice.
The Goliath birdeater lives in deep burrows on the
forest floor and seldom climbs far off the ground. The fangs inject
males only live for three or four years, dying soon after venom
mating for the first and only time, whereas the females
can survive for 15 years or more. Each female lays
100–200 eggs and guards the brood constantly for
about two months until the spiderlings hatch.
If threatened, Goliath birdeaters can flick
irritant hairs from their abdomen
using their hind legs.

The goliath birdeater detects its prey


by sensing vibrations in the ground
1 0 0 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

THE PANTANAL
The world’s largest wetland
The Pantanal is a vast area of tropical wetland, or plant life presents great opportunities for animals in the
swamp, making up 3 percent of the world’s wetlands region. However, there are few endemic species in the
and spreading across 70,000 sq miles (approximately Pantanal, meaning that many of the animals are also
180,000 sq km). It receives water from the Brazilian found in neighboring ecoregions. This includes the
highlands and drains into the Paraguay River. Rich, Yacare caiman, although the Pantanal is its stronghold.
silty soils support a broad complex of plants from Wetlands act as natural water treatment systems,
the different ecoregions that surround the Pantanal, filtering and removing chemicals from the water, but
including the Amazon rainforest to the north and they are susceptible to pollution from excessive run-off
the Cerrado savanna to the east. from agriculture and mining activities. Deforestation,
infrastructure development, and cattle ranching also
Wet and dry risk changing the Pantanal’s water resources and so
Plant diversity in the Pantanal is particularly great could alter its ecological balance.
because higher areas remain dry all year round and so
maintain drought-tolerant trees, while lower-lying areas
host plants that can cope with seasonal flooding, and
some parts of the Pantanal are permanently underwater
and so contain many aquatic plants. This diversity of

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THE PANTANAL | 101

LO C AT I O N

The Pantanal is located to the


south of the Amazon river
White-lipped
basin in central South America.
Around 80% of it is in Brazil.

Cuiabá
peccary large, sharp, interlocking
BRAZIL
Goiânia
Tayassu pecari canine teeth

BOLIVIA
One of the most social mammals, white-lipped peccaries
Campo Grande move, feed, and rest together in herds ranging from five 30—39 in (76—100 cm)
PARAGUAY 0 km 400 to hundreds of individuals. With jaws capable of cracking 55—88 lb (25—40 kg)
0 miles 400 palm nuts, a group of peccaries can fend off natural Vulnerable
predators such as jaguars. Human hunters, however, prey Fruit, nuts, small vertebrates
C L I M AT E on herds, killing large numbers at a time, which has had
a devastating impact on the species.
The Pantanal has a tropical, semihumid climate.
The extent and depth of the floodwater varies
markedly according to rainfall.

°F °C (Corumba, Brazil) MM IN
104 40 180 7

86 30 135 5 1⁄4 Central


to South
68 20 90 3 1⁄2 America

50 10 45 1 3⁄4

◁ GROUP IDENTITY
32 0 0 0
Peccaries spread rump scent-gland
Jan
Feb

Sep
Oct
Nov
Apr

Jul
Mar

May

Aug

Dec
Jun

secretions among members to create


Key Average temperature Rainfall a musky herd odor.

Capybara 4 ft (1.2 m)
77—145 lb (35—66 kg)
Common
Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris Aquatic plants, bark, grasses

Related to guinea pigs, the capybara is the world’s largest


living rodent, closer in size to a large domestic dog. It is
heavy bodied, with short but sturdy limbs, and almost no
tail. This placid, sociable mammal spends much of its time
in rivers and lakes, partly to avoid predators such as wild
NT er g dogs, pumas, and jaguars. Partially webbed, hooflike toes N. and E.
P LA wat oatin make it an excellent swimmer, and its eyes, nose, and ears
A Y i n g e - fl iver South
W ow s fre ay R nal.
NA -gr sit high on its head, allowing it to see and breathe
bi

a America
RU fast form ragu Pant
rd

h e
T cin t h P a he s in while its body remains underwater.
t he of t ecie re
,a

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WATE

◁ PRECOCIOUS YOUNG
R HYAC
f fish

Capybara pups can follow their


mothers into water shortly after birth
INTH

and are able to graze within a week.


1 02 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

Giant otter stout whiskers detect


prey movements in water

Pteronura brasiliensis
The world’s largest otter is also one of the rarest—only
a few thousand are thought to remain in the wild. 3—5 ft (1—1.5 m)
Nicknamed the “river wolf,” this sinuous, web-footed, 48—70 lb (22—32 kg)
muscular member of the weasel family is one of South Endangered
America’s largest predators. It is fiercely territorial— Fish, frogs, small caimans
which it has to be—in order to protect itself and its
family from caimans, jaguars, pumas, and other threats
in and around the river systems it calls home.

Scent warning
Giant otters live in groups of up to 20 animals: a male
N. to C. South
and female—which mate for life—and their offspring. America
The parents dig a den in riverbanks or under fallen logs
and trample a section of the bank around it. All of the
group scent-mark the perimeter of their territory with
well-webbed toes
their anal glands to deter intruders. They fish in and
patrol a section of the river around their den.
Giant otters are sociable—grooming, hunting, playing,
and sleeping together. They have up to nine different
vocalizations, from intense territorial screeches to ▷ SINUOUS BODY
chirps and whistles. Most cubs are born during the dry The giant otter’s long, sinuous body,
webbed feet, and flattened, wide-
season, in litters of one to six, and are cared for by both based tail mean it is well-adapted for
parents and older siblings. Young otters stay with their diving and swimming, but its short
families until they are at least two and a half years old. limbs make it ungainly on land.

Hooded capuchin distinctive black cap

Sapajus cay
Hooded capuchins are medium-sized, highly sociable
monkeys, common in the tropical forests of the Amazon 16—18 in (40—45 cm)
basin in South America. They get their name from the 7—8 lb (3—3.5 kg)
distinctive cap of dark fur at the top of their head, which Common
resembles the hairstyle of a Capuchin monk. Fruit, leaves, small animals

Forest acrobats
These energetic and acrobatic monkeys move quickly
through the lower and middle layers of the forest in
groups of about 10–20, staying in touch with each other
using a variety of birdlike, high-pitched calls.
N. South
Capuchins are highly intelligent and use a variety of America
tools to obtain food. In the lush swamps of the Pantanal,
there is no shortage of palm nuts, which make up part of
their diet. In northern populations, capuchins have been
observed to crack open tough palm nuts by knocking
one rock against another, but this behavior has yet to be
confirmed in the south.
◁ FEEDING ON FRUIT
Clasping a prized piece of fruit, this
hooded capuchin will eat it in the
company of its troop.
THE PANTANAL | 1 03

▷ HEAD FIRST
The giant otter’s diet
consists mainly of fish,
including characins,
which are related to
piranhas and catfish.
They also eat frogs,
snakes, and turtles.

Jabiru stork massive,


upswept bill
4—5 ft (1.2—1.5 m)
11—15 lb (5—7 kg)
Common
Jabiru mycteria Fish, amphibians, reptiles

One of South America’s largest birds, the male jabiru has “swollen neck” in the local Tupi-Guarani language.
a massive bill, measuring 12–14 in (30–35 cm). Social Nests are huge structures of sticks, constructed in busy,
waterside birds, jabirus use their bill to detect underwater mixed colonies of waterbirds and used for several years.
prey just like a spoonbill, sweeping it sideways, partly Two to five eggs are laid, and the young fly when 15 Central and
open. The male’s naked black neck inflates in courtship weeks old. They need parental care for three South America
and aggressive displays, giving the more months, so most pairs nest every other
bird its name, which means year. Jabirus may live for more than 35 years.

wide wingtips

short tail
▷ SOARING AWAY
Jabirus look ungainly,
and flapping flight with broad, red collar
such great weight and of bare skin
broad wings is hard
work. However, they long legs trail behind
when flying
soar beautifully and
efficiently in rising air.
104 |

gray spatulate bill color varies


with diet

Roseate
spoonbill
Platalea ajaja white neck stays
outstretched
in flight
The only spoonbill in the Americas, of six species
worldwide, the roseate is also the world’s only pink
spoonbill. It has the hallmark long, thick, flattened
bill that broadens out into a round tip or “spoon.”
When feeding, the spoonbill sweeps its bill,
partly open, from side to side through shallow
water; the bill snaps shut when small fish,
water beetles, shrimp, or snails touch
the sensitive nerve endings inside the
spoon. Nostrils located at the base of
the bill help the bird breathe with its
bill immersed. Roseate spoonbills feed
in rivermouths, mangrove swamps,
and freshwater marshes inland,
often with other wading birds.

Colonial nesters
Breeding pairs nest in mixed-species colonies
in nearby mangroves, trees, or reeds. Both sexes
incubate between one and five eggs, which hatch
after 22–24 days. The chicks’ bills are initially short,
straight, and soft, only becoming spoon-shaped after
nine days. Both parents feed and protect the chicks,
which are never left alone. They beg noisily and reach
inside the parent’s open bill to take regurgitated food.
The young take off on their first flight at six weeks old,
and can fly well at seven or eight weeks.

28—33 in (70—85 cm)


3 lb (1.4 kg)
Common
Fish, crustaceans, mollusks
long legs ideal
for wading

▷ STUNNING COLORS
S. North Certain crustaceans in the
America, △ COURTSHIP RITUAL roseate spoonbill’s diet
Caribbean, Waving their wings and grasping feed on algae that have
South America bill tips, roseate spoonbills perform carotenoid pigments,
a courtship dance on the ground, giving the bird its
in water, or even high in a tree. striking pink color.
THE PANTANAL | 1 05

Golden tegu Green anaconda


Tupinambis teguixin Eunectes murinus

A flexible diet of insects, The world’s bulkiest and most


spiders, and worms, and also 40 in (100 cm) powerful snake, the green 20—33 ft (6—10 m)
vertebrates from fish to mice, 9 lb (4 kg) anaconda is a nonvenomous Up to 550 lb (250 kg)
eggs, fruits, and shoots allows Not known member of the boa constrictor Vulnerable
this large lizard to colonize Insects, birds, mammals family. It often lies in shallow Reptiles, fish, mammals
many habitats. The female lays water waiting to ambush animals
20–30 eggs in a foliage-lined N. to C. South America that come to the water’s edge to N. to C. South America
burrow and may stay with drink. The snake grabs its prey
them for the cold season until with sharp, back-curved teeth,
they hatch up to five and quickly wraps it into the
months later. muscular coils. Each time the
victim breathes out, the coils
tighten, and death is usually
long toes, from suffocation or heart failure.
sharp claws Almost any vertebrate prey is
tail forms half taken. Mating occurs in the dry
the length of
body season. The female may eat her
much smaller male partner to
nourish her pregnancy.

▷ KILLER BITE
Strong and often ▷ AMBUSH CAMOUFLAGE
aggressive, the Patterned for swampy vegetation and
golden tegu has forest undergrowth, the anaconda
a bite that can slides silently after quarry, or strikes
even crush bone. from the water’s edge.

Giant parrot snake


Leptophis ahaetulla whiplike tail

Also called the lora or giant lora, this snake is only mildly If confronted, it rears up, gapes its mouth, hisses,
venomous. It is active during the day and rests at night. and makes mock strikes. The female lays
Well-camouflaged among dense undergrowth, it and leaves three to five eggs in a safe
ambushes prey, or pursues them with great speed. It place, usually in a tree hole or mossy
also explores crevices, caves, and vegetation for food. branch fork.

1.5—2 m (5—7 ft)


2—3 lb (1—1.5 kg)
Common yellow
Geckos, tree frogs, birds underside

Central
America to
South America
◁ BRIGHT HUES
The parrot snake gets its name because
of its bright coloring: vivid green on the
upper side and yellow underneath.
1 0 6 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

▷ COMMUNAL FISHING
Yacare caimans are often tolerant
of others of their kind, crowding
together at areas rich in sources
of food, such as schools of fish,
or at favored resting sites.

scales reinforced
with bony plates

eyes and nostrils on top of head


allow caiman to float low in
water yet still see and breathe
THE PANTANAL | 1 07

long,
muscular tail

broad snout

Yacare caiman
Caiman yacare
△ TOOTHY GRIN
The Yacare caiman has an average of
A close relative of the more northerly distributed common its toothy appearance, similar to that of the piranha.
74 teeth. As the older ones fall out or spectacled caiman (C. crocodilus), the Yacare caiman It has sharp, conical teeth, and some of the larger teeth
and leave gaps before replacement, is one of the major predators across much of its range. are still visible when its mouth is closed.
the number may vary from 70 to 82. Its stronghold is the swampy wetlands of the Pantanal,
where it is locally abundant, hauling out in large groups Finding new habitats
to bask on mats of floating plants or on banks. Its Before the global ban on the trade of wild crocodile skins
numbers here are counted in the millions—this may in 1992, millions of Yacare caiman were killed during the
well be the largest crocodilian population on Earth. 1970s and 1980s. This severe hunting pressure forced
▽ BODY ARMOR some Yacare caiman to move out of the wetlands and
Caiman have plates of bone, called Piranha prey adapt to other habitats. These include drier grasslands,
osteoderms, that are embedded in
the skin. These are smallest and most
All five species of caiman are broad-snouted, Central scrub, and even farmland, usually with an aquatic retreat
flexible on the head and underside and South American cousins of the North such as a pool, ditch, or creek nearby. On land they lie
of the body. American alligator. The medium-sized in wait for passing lizards, birds, and mammals up to
Yacare caiman hunts mainly in the size of capybara. In turn, younger Yacare caiman in
water for snakes, amphibians, particular fall prey to jaguars and anacondas.
fish, and mollusks – in
particular large water Nesting on dry ground
snails, called apple The caimans’ breeding peaks during the wet season
snails, that are when water levels are high. After mating, the female
crunched and chooses a drier site, where she constructs a mound
swallowed in their of heat-producing rotting vegetation in which to lay
shells. The local her eggs. The clutch size typically varies from 20–35.
name “piranha Incubation takes several weeks and the female usually
caiman” may have guards the nest from raiders such as snakes, lizards, and
arisen because the hawks, but not so tenaciously as some crocodilians—
piranha makes up a the American alligator, for example. In some cases, the
considerable proportion mother has left by the time the hatchlings emerge—
of the Yacare caiman’s diet. which occurs mostly in March—so the young caiman
The name could also reflect must fend for themselves.

5—10 ft (1.5—3 m)
55—120 lb (25—55 kg)
Common
Fish, birds, mammals

fourth tooth in lower jaw


fits into socket in upper
jaw when mouth closed A caiman will get through
up to 40 sets of teeth C. to S. South
America

in its lifetime
1 08 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

ANDEAN ALTIPLANO
Silver salt flats hidden in the mountains
The Andean altiplano—literally, high plain—is the second numbering in the thousands, and the plains and slopes
largest mountainous plateau in the world after the Tibetan are home to herds of vicuñas, which are bred by Andean
plateau in Asia. It is a landscape of extremes, surrounded peoples for their wool, and llamas, bred for their wool,
by the mountains and volcanos of the central Andes. It has skin, and meat.
the world’s highest navigable lake, Lake Titicaca, and the The Andean altiplano’s vegetation, known as puna
world’s largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni. At an average grassland, is dominated by grasses and shrubs, many
altitude of 12,400 ft (3,750 m) above sea level, the air is thin, of which form tussocks or cushions. Low-growing,
the sun is strong, winds can be fierce, and temperatures mat-forming yareta plants and tall, branching cacti grow
can fluctuate, making the altiplano a harsh place to live. in the stony soils. The puna ecoregion is divided into wet,
dry, and desert areas depending on the amount of rainfall
Harsh but fair they receive annually. One region in the center of the
Despite the unforgiving conditions, the altiplano is also Andes receives a meager 16 in (400 mm) of rainfall a
a land of strange beauty. The flat white expanse of the year and experiences an eight-month long dry season.
salt flats is, in places, adorned with three-foot-wide
polygonal shapes created by the salt crystals, and
incredible rock formations are sculpted by wind-blown
sand. The mineral-rich lakes support flocks of flamingos

od crop s been grown

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ANDEAN ALTIPLANO | 109

LO C AT I O N

PERU BO L IVI A
Culpeo reddish brown legs
La Paz
Pseudalopex culpaeus
The second largest wild canid in South America, the culpeo
E

is also known as the Andean fox, a name that reflects 2—4 ft (0.6—1.2 m)
C H I L

The Andean many of its characteristics. Like most fox species, it is an 11—30 lb (5—13.5 kg)
Salta altiplano is located opportunistic hunter, feeding on wild berries as well as Locally common
in western South
rodents and introduced European hares and rabbits. It also Rodents, hares, fruit, insects
America. It covers
ARGENTINA parts of Bolivia, takes young domestic livestock such as lambs occasionally,
0 km 400 Peru, Chile, and which brings it into conflict with farmers.
0 miles 400 Argentina.

C L I M AT E

Temperates fluctuate thoughout the day. Cold


winter nights often bring frost, and temperatures
can fall well below freezing in the southwest.
W. to S. South
°F °C (Puno, Peru) MM IN America
104 40 160 6 1/4

86 30 120 4 3/4

68 20 80 3 1/4

50 10 40 1 1/2
◁ HOME IN THE ROCKS
Culpeos are usually solitary, but mated
32 0 0 0
pairs stay together for up to five
Jan
Feb

Sep
Oct
Nov
Apr

Jul
Mar

May

Aug

Dec
Jun

months, making dens in caves, which


Key Average temperature Rainfall both parents guard from predators.

Northern viscacha
Lagidium peruanum
The northern viscacha resembles a long-tailed rabbit,
but this high-altitude rodent is more closely related to
chinchillas. Its soft, ultra-dense coat protects it from frigid
temperatures, while thin-walled arteries help it to survive
in the oxygen-depleted conditions of the high Andes.
s
lla’ m
U R i n chi war
h i t res
DF c s
TE tailed keep eratu ver,
Dr

V E - r p e
CO long se fu tem How ll
y

e n g . 12—18 in (30—45 cm)


Th a-de ezin teau ownfa
se

r 2—4 lb (0.9—1.8 kg)


ult he fre h pla its d were
g e
in t he hi came hillas or th e
as

Locally common whiskers around


f t b e i n c s f ar 6 in (15 cm) long
o ur ch nter
on

f ey . Grass, lichen, moss


its ause y hu de. Th ered
c b g
be ped ur tra dan
las

p f n
tra and ally e
c
pet criti
ts e

w
no
▷ CLIFF DWELLER
ight

Viscacha colonies
are often located
C H IN

on steep cliffs, which


months
CHILLA

provide protection
W. South from predators—as
America well as being prime
spots for basking.
11 0 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

long neck

variable, whitish

Vicuña chest “bib”

Vicugna vicugna
A small, slender relative of the llama and the alpaca, the with the hard dental pad in the upper jaw as the vicuña
vicuña is well adapted to life in the high Andes. It lives relentlessly uses its molars to chew the tough grass. 5 ft (1.5 m)
in small family groups in arid meadows above 11,500 ft Vulnerable to attack on open grassland, vicuñas are 88—120 lb (40—55 kg)
(3,500 m) and sometimes as high as 18,850 ft (5,750 m), always on the lookout for predators, such as foxes. They Locally common
but always below the snow line. In this environment, have excellent hearing and vision and when a predator Grass
days are frequently sunny and warm, so tough thickets is spotted, they give a warning whistle.
of grass can grow. At night, the thin air chills rapidly Families, led by a single male, consist of about five
and temperatures plunge below freezing. The vicuña females and their young. The groups stay small, with
has a thick fleece of fine-layered hairs, which traps only about 10 members, because the chief male drives
warm air around its body and keeps the cold out. away the young at the age of 10 months. Young vicuñas
live alone or form single-sex herds until they start their
Unique teeth own families at about the age of two. Unusually,
The vicuña has unique teeth for a hoofed mammal. The vicuñas have separate feeding and sleeping territories, W. South
America
front teeth (incisors) in its lower jaw grow constantly, which are mostly marked out with dung. Vicuñas need
like those of a rodent, and have enamel only on the to drink water every day so their feeding territory has
front. The incisors are kept sharp by constant contact to have a source of fresh water.
ANDEAN ALTIPLANO | 111

Titicaca grebe
Rollandia microptera
So adapted to life in water that it cannot fly open water, 9,850 ft (3,000 m) above sea level.
and can barely stand, this flightless grebe The Titicaca grebe dives skilfully for fish—it
is found only on lakes in the Lake Titicaca basin. mostly eats pupfish—and skitters across the
Populations on separate freshwater lakes have water with raised wings. It can breed in any
lived in isolation for a very long time and are month of the year, making a platform of damp
vulnerable to habitat change. A few thousand vegetation in which the female lays two eggs
pairs live on reed-fringed lakes, with areas of and can have several broods each year.

△ PLAY FIGHTING
Young male vicuñas often play fight 11—18 in (28—46 cm)
and bite each other. The fights 21 oz (595 g)
become more serious as they reach
Endangered
sexual maturity, and the victor will
join a female-only herd to start his Fish
own family.

◁ DAGGERLIKE BILL
Grebes have sharply
W. South
▽ DAILY MIGRATION pointed bills. The
America
Vicuña families spend the night in the Titicaca grebe’s bill has
relative safety of steeper slopes. They a red upper and yellow
climb back down to graze in the high lower mandible.
plains by day.

Andean flicker 13 in (33 cm)


5—7 oz (142—200 g)
Locally common
Colaptes rupicola Insect larvae

Flickers are New World woodpeckers,


noted for their terrestrial feeding
behavior, and the Andean flicker is
the most terrestrial of them all. It is
widespread in bushy habitats and open
grassland at altitudes of 6,500–16,500 ft NW. to SW.
(2,000–5,000 m). South America

Barbed tongue
Andean flickers feed in groups on the
◁ FEMALE FLICKER
ground, digging or scraping around
The striking black mustache
grass tussocks with their large bills to combined with the red patch on
reveal ants or beetle and moth larvae. the back of the neck identifies
They seize their prey with the barbed tip this flicker as female.
of their long, extendable tongue. Sociable
even when nesting, they build a dozen or
more burrows in road cuttings or sandy
or earth cliffs. The 3–5 ft (1–1.5 m) long
burrows lead to a 12 in (30 cm) nesting
long, barred tail
chamber that holds up to four chicks.
112 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

bold, white ruff

Andean condor
Vultur gryphus

The Andean condor has the largest wing area of any bird,
and its wingspan is more than 10 ft (3 m). Condors rely 3—4ft (1—1.3 m)
entirely on constant winds and rising thermal air currents 24—33 lb (11—15 kg)
to fly. They can glide great distances using gravity alone Near threatened
—energetic flapping is not an option for such a heavy Dead mammals
bird. Fortunately, perpetual winds allow condors to
search beaches, plateaus, and valleys, confident they
can regain height easily.
Condors feed on carrion, using their strong bills to
tear the hides and flesh. Unlike eagles and hawks, the
condors’ long legs are used simply for standing, not for
killing prey. In the past, Andean condors mainly fed on
vicuñas, guanacos, and seals, but nowadays they more NW. to SW.
often eat dead domestic livestock. Although no longer South
America
common, in their core range flocks of 30 or 40 condors
still gather around large carcasses.

On the wane
Andean condors breed only once every two years and
miss a year if food is short. The whole reproduction
cycle is long and slow: females lay just one egg, which
△ COMMUNAL ROOSTING
hatches after 56 to 58 days, and then it is six months Groups of condors roost in remote caves and on
before the chick can fly. Chicks rely on their parents for sheltered ledges. In the morning, they leave their
several months more. Young birds do not breed for six perch and rise effortlessly on thermal currents.
years, often more. Condors balance this low “output”
with very low natural mortality—they can live for 70
years—but whole populations are extremely vulnerable
to human persecution. They are simply unable to make
up lost numbers quickly, if at all.
ANDEAN ANTIPLANO | 113

outspread flight
feathers
Fabian’s lizard
Liolaemus fabiani
First identified as a distinct species in 1983, Fabian’s
lizard (also called Yañez’s iguana) is endemic to the 6 in (15 cm)
largest saltflat in Chile, Salar de Atacama. This lizard 1—2 oz (30—50 g)
scampers around by day among the salty lumps and Not known
hypersaline shallows, even when surface temperatures Flies, beetles, other insects
exceed 113°F (45°C). It copes with drinking salty water
by excreting excess salt from parts on its snout called
lateral nasal glands—similar to its large cousin, the
marine iguana. The lizard hunts flies, grabbing them
in midair, but also takes beetles and other small prey.

Bars and stripes


Fabian’s lizard has a big, strong head, a wide-gaping Chile (Salar
mouth, and robust limbs. Its “beaded” scales—small, de Atacama)
smooth, shiny, and rounded—form 11 to 13 untidy,
variable stripes or bars of black and sulfur-yellow to
orange-red, on a speckly background along the flanks.
This coloration fades on the underside.
▽ AT HOME ON SALT
Particularly aggressive about territory as well as
Fabian’s lizard is active by day among
mating partners, males display their striking side the salty accretions and saline pools.
patterns to rivals. They also flick their limbs and tail, It snaps with lightning speed
and clack their jaws at each other. at passing flies.

△ NOT FOR SHARING


Males will deliver vicious bites when disputes
over territory or females arise. Their jaws are
even strong enough to draw blood through
their tough scales.

△ PERFECT FLIGHT
Gliding at speeds of up to 200 km/h
(125 mph), the Andean condor covers
extensive distances.
114 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

ARGENTINE PAMPAS
One of the richest grazing areas in the world
The term pampas describes the wide, flat, grassy plains of Gauchos—cowboys—have herded cows, horses, and
southern South America, covering an area of more than sheep on the grasslands for at least 200 years. The
300,000 sq miles (750,000 sq km). It was named after temperate climate and rich, fertile soils of the pampas also
a Quechua Indian word meaning flat surface. In North make it very good for cultivating crops such as soybeans,
America, this sort of habitat is referred to as prairie and wheat, maize, and grape vines.
in Eurasia as steppe. The dominant vegetation comprises Overgrazing, habitat loss, and fertilizer use has
perennial grasses, such as stipas, and herbs. diminished and degraded the natural pampas environment,
Grasses are able to regenerate after the frequent making it less suitable for its native species. The Argentine
wildfires, but few trees can survive them and so they pampas ecosystem is classified as an endangered ecoregion
are seldom found on the pampas. The scarcity of trees for by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) because none
shade and roosting has led to many animals burrowing of the natural pampas is protected, despite plans by the
underground for shelter. Argentine government to create a national park.

Endangered ecosystem
Very little of the pampas remains pristine and
undisturbed by human activity, and the original
vegetation of coarse grasses has been greatly reduced.

ry
)
ft (3 m
grass g as, this coars f
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EN shy e pa xtin More

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.
ARGENTINE PAMPAS | 115

LO C AT I O N

The pampas covers much


of eastern Argentina, most
Vampire bat elongated finger bones
of Uruguay, and the extreme Desmodus rotundus support wing membrane

south of Brazil.

As its name suggests, the common vampire bat feeds


Córdoba
A on blood, mainly of mammals such as tapirs, peccaries, 3—4 in (7.6—10 cm)
URUGUAY
Santiago IN agoutis, and sea lions along with domesticated species 5
⁄8 —2 oz (19—57 g)
T

such as cattle and horses. Two other species of vampire


EN

Common
Montevideo bat, also living in Central and South America, feed Blood
G
AR

predominantly on bird blood. The common vampire bat


0 km 400
ATLANTIC can crawl over the ground with amazing speed and agility,
OCEAN propped on its forearms and back legs. It usually lands
0 miles 400
close to a resting animal and uses its heat-sensitive nose
C L I M AT E pad to seek areas of warm blood vessels close to the skin.
Once bitten, the anticoagulant properties of the bat’s
The climate across the pampas is mild and saliva help to keep the victim’s blood flowing freely.
dry. Rainfall is lightest in the winter months of
June, July, and August.
Reciprocal regurgitation Central
°F °C (Olavarria, Argentina) MM IN
The common vampire bat has a communal roost in a to South
104 40 140 5 1/2
hollow tree, cave, mine, or old building, which it shares America
86 30 105 4 1/4 with hundreds of others. Not only will adult females
regurgitate blood to their offspring, they also share blood
68 20 70 2 3/4
with hungry roost mates. Bats are more likely to help one
50 10 35 1 1/4
another if they are related or have roosted together for a
▽ BLOOD LICKER
substantial amount of time. To judge whether a fellow bat
The vampire bat’s razor sharp teeth,
32 0 0 0 is hungry, they engage in mutual grooming sessions that long tongue, grooved chin, and short
Jan
Feb

Sep
Oct
Nov
Apr

Jul
Mar

May

Aug

Dec
Jun

allow them to feel how distended each others’ stomachs nose are all adaptations for getting
Key Average temperature Rainfall are before regurgitating. access to and lapping up blood.

E ,
AD ge
E SH ’s lar
e
OM tre nopy ed
ere
gr

LC bu a d
WE Om like c h nee s, wh ted.
as

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Th brella muc amp stribu
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sp

s
um vide the p ely d ngy
pro de in spars k, spo ter
ro

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uce

e a a
Th nk is and .
r
tr rvo stant
u i
e i
s 10

res e res
fi r
i t
0,00

OMBU
0

A vampire bat can drink 50 percent


se e d s
TREE

of its body weight in 30 minutes


116 | CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA