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Mencius Melo – From Cenarium Magazine
MANAUS – To demystify the origin and the real habitat of Amazonian animals, which are often confused with animals from other faunas, CENARIUM MAGAZINE decided to consult specialists and stamp some of these ‘prehistoric’ looking species that exist in the region.
The first on the list is the matamatá (Chelus Fimbriata), a species of prehistoric turtle that has an appearance that can be scary on the first encounter. Disconcerting, the animal is in fact a very old being. According to the biologist and professor at the State University of Amazonas (UEA), Fabiano Gazzi, matá-matá is a cagádo, a group of animals that in evolution are close to tortoises and turtles.
“The cagádos are typical animals of freshwater, rivers, and wetlands. His countenance, which for many may seem frightening, is the result of natural selection that allowed the survival of animals that most resembled (color and body ornaments) with the environment because it allowed these animals to “mix” with the environment. around them and, as a result, were less captured by predators”, he explained.
“They are animals that react, being able to attack, only when they are disturbed. These animals have an ancient evolutionary history, with related fossils dating back to the Miocene (5 million years ago). The reproduction of this fish occurs at certain times of the year, when females lay their eggs in shallow nests in humid regions close to rivers”, informed the biologist.
Another star on the list is the acari-bodó (Pterygoplichthys pardalis or Liposarcus pardalis). Fish that is part of the food chain of many people in the northern region, Bodó is served boiled or roasted. The aquatic animal is from a family of fish that do not have scales, but rather shells. Its meat is tasty and is much appreciated in the Amazon. According to biologist Adailton Silva, the bodó is a tropical freshwater fish in the Loricariidae family, order Siluriformes.
It originates in the Amazon hydrographic basin. It has optional air breathing, that is, although it is a fish that lives on the bottom, it has the ability to breathe air from the surface of the water during periods of drought or when the dissolved oxygen is very low.
It cannot be considered prehistoric, but it has many primitive characteristics that demonstrate a peculiar aspect. Their skin is covered with dermal plaques that allow them to protect themselves from predators, as they tend to stay at the bottom of rivers and lakes.
Fish with a ‘sea face’, the sawfish (Pristis Pectinata) is a rare animal that can be found in rivers in the Amazon. Because it was an oceanic gulf millions of years ago, the region has inherited aquatic animals that are commonly found in the oceans such as crabs and shrimp, for example. The peixe-serra is threatened with extinction since its capture occurs accidentally when its teeth engage the fishing nets.
Another animal in the report is the tamoatá (Hoplosternum littorale). With the face of Bodó’s “cousin”, tamoatá is also a fish without scales, with a carapace. Nicknamed “Amazonian lobster”, tamoatá is also on the palate of many traditional cuisines in the Amazon region.
“According to biologist Adailton Silva, the species belongs to the order Siluriformes, family Callichthyidae. “They have a body covered with dermal plaques that offer protection against predators, they do not have scales. They are similar to the bodós, however, belonging to another family, smaller and more agile. They live in shallow or swampy environments, with a wide distribution throughout South America, from the Amazon basin to northern Argentina”, he detailed.
“They have a maximum age of 4 years, are benthic, but have optional air-breathing. They can be considered bioindicators due to their eating habits and the power of survival in anthropized places. Its main predators are larger catfish, pirarucus, and alligators. The first reproduction occurs after one year of life and can be grown commercially.
“Reproduction begins with the rainy season. The male builds a nest made of a bunch of bubbles of mucus and vegetable matter, where the female lays her eggs to be later fertilized by the male who keeps the eggs during incubation”, he described.
Another one that makes the list is the jacuraru (Tupinambis teguixin). A species of lizard reminiscent of the komodo dragon, the jacuraru is found in the Amazon where it has plenty of territory. Known for his ability to steal eggs, the jacuraru is a cold-blooded animal.
According to biologist Fabiano Gazzi, the jacuraru is a lizard native to the Amazon rainforest and belongs to a group of lizards that can reach more than two meters in length.
“Animals of this species, generally, can be observed standing in the sun, often close to rocks that help in the process of raising the body temperature, since the lizards, different from the human being, which maintain their own temperature, depend on the temperature from the sun, directly or reflected in rocks, to maintain your body temperature”, observed Gazzi.
The tail, relatively long concerning the body, allows the lizard to reach high speeds without losing its balance. The local fallacies indicate that these animals are poisonous, however, there is no scientific report on this fact, since the species’ diet is varied, counting as items such as vegetables, small vertebrates, and eggs.
“Egg thieves is a recurring term related to these lizards and, in fact, scientific studies report that the predation of eggs by this species has caused damage to the survival of several species, such as the Amazon turtle,” pointed out the expert.
The lizard is a recognized seed disperser, being of great importance for the environmental balance of the region, and studies on the pharmaceutical properties of its body fat have had great results”, he commented.
And to close the list, the sauim-de-Manaus (Saguinus Bicolor), a little monkey that is native to the region of Manaus, in the Amazon. The small species of sauim resembles a gargoyle, a monstrous statue of Gothic architecture and which is also a character in medieval tales. The pet lives in a family and has been in the region for a long time.
Fabiano Gazzi explains: “The sauim-de-colleira is a monkey from the group of callitrichids that currently attracts more attention from researchers due to the risk of extinction to which it is subject. These monkeys call attention to their beauty and for being docile, often being able to interact with humans, a fact that, associated with the destruction of their habitat, increases the risk of extinction. Like many other monkeys, the species lives in groups that have social hierarchies”, he enumerated.
“These groups are generally small, and there may be several groups in a relatively small area of forest fragment. The species is considered one of the main seed dispersers in the environment, playing a fundamental role in the region where it lives”, said the biologist.
“The concern with the current state of the species has motivated the scientific community to propose projects for the reintegration of individuals in the environment, allowing for an increase in the population and preservation of the species”, he concluded.