Tag Archive: Amazon basin

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines (turtles)
Family: Pelomedusidae (Afro-American Side-necked Turtles)

Genus/species: Podocnemis expansa

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: The side-necked turtles have a long neck which can be withdrawn horizontally within the shell, leaving it partly exposed.  P. expansa is the largest river turtle in South America. Its Carapace is broad, flat; wider in the back than the front and olive-green to brown in color. Males smaller than females, which can weigh up to 90 kg (200 lbs). 

Carpace length up to: 80 cm (32 in)

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Northern South America: Amazon, Negro and Orinoco River basins. Found in freshwater; large rivers and their tributaries, lagoons and forest ponds. Restricted to calm waters of large rivers during the dry season, but move into the flooded forest where food is plentiful during the high-water season.

DIET IN THE WILD: Aquatic vegetation and fruit, insects and slow-moving prey and carrion. Mutual cleaning behaviour between individuals of this species has been observed. One turtle will position itself at right angles to a second turtle and use its jaws to pull algae from its shell. The turtles will then switch position

REPRODUCTION: During the dry season the Arrau River turtle migrates to nesting sites on beaches. Females dig a nest in which they lay 75-125 spherical eggs, and then cover them with sand. After about 45 days, hatchlings emerge, usually at night or early morning to avoid midday heat and predators, and head directly to water. Colonial nesting and simultaneous hatching helps maximize survival numbers of this perilous journey.

MORTALITY: Can live up to 50 years.

CONSERVATION:  IUCN: Lower Risk/conservation dependent. CITES Appendix II. P. expansa eggs and adults have been over-collected for food. These turtles are considered rare throughout the Amazon. Middle Orinoco River has included the protection of nesting beaches, a nursery program for the care and release of hatchlings, and an environmental education program for the public.

REMARKS: A fossil Pelomdusid is thought to be the largest freshwater turtle to have ever lived (carapace length: 230 cm). Even today, the Arrau is one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world. As a side-necked turtle it has a long neck which can be withdrawn horizontally within the shell, leaving it partly exposed a vertical ‘S’ bend , rather than retracting it as in most other turtles (all North American turtles are not side-necked). 

“Art,” as we call our senior turtle (Weight: 20 kg or 44 lbs. Age: unknown.) was confiscated in Miami and came to the SF Zoo via the Miami Metro Zoo in 1997 by government import authorities . The turtle is on loan to us until the zoo has an appropriate location for it.  Several younger turtles ha subsequently joined our senior turtle.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Amazon Flooded Tunnel 2018

Ron’s flickr link  http://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/sets/72157608449490716/

eol Encyclopedia of Life  http://eol.org/pages/6868408/details

IUCN Red List and CITES Appendix II  http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/17822/0

Archive http://www.arkive.org/giant-south-american-turtle/podocnemis-expansa/

Ron’s WordPress Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-au

Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Perciformes (Perch-likes)
Family: Cichlidae (Cichlids)
Subfamily: Cichlasomatinae

Genus/species: Hypselecara temporalis

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: The Chocolate Cichlid is an egg-shaped fish with a small mouth. The eye iris may range in color from amber-gold to bright red. Body color is a mustard-yellow with a large, characteristic black blotch at the mid-section of the body and often a horizontal stripe. On the caudal peduncle are some similar, but smaller markings. The belly and throat regions are bright red as is the area near the gill covering and the surrounding parts of the eye. The fins are red with some mustard-yellow areas.  

Length up to 15 cm, (5-8 inches)

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Found in South America: Amazon River basin In slow flowing, turbid waters.

DIET IN THE WILD: Feeds on insects at or above the surface.

REPRODUCTION: H. temporalis sexes are separate. Adult males grow larger and have a hump on their head. Fertilization external. Eggs are deposited upon vertical substrates and guarded by both parents. 


CONSERVATION: IUCN Red List and CITES: Not Evaluated


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Amazon Flooded Tunnel 2018

fishbase www.fishbase.org/summary/12323

 eol Encyclopedia of life http://eol.org/pages/212750/details

Ron’s WordPress shortlink:  http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-b0

Ron’s flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/15442981620/in/set-72157620568438047/

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Characiformes (Characins)
Family: Serrasalmidae

Genus/species: Colossoma macropomum


The Black Pacu body is laterally compressed with an arched back. Color is basically gray to olive above, dark below often with spots and blemishes in the middle. All fins are black. It is the second heaviest scaled freshwater fish in South America (after the Arapiama)

Length up to 100 cm (40 inches) Weight up to 30 kg (66 lbs)

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: South America: Amazon and Orinoco basins as wild form; aquacultured form widely distributed in South America. Found in open water of large rivers and seasonally flooded forests. Young stay in black waters of flood plains until maturity. Has been introduced to Thailand and is established

DIET IN THE WILD: Pacu teeth in front are molars for chewing, NOT ripping. Good for eating fruits, greens and grain during seasonal flooding. Also feeds on zooplankton, insects, snails and decaying plants
ACADEMY DIET: Fruit, pears apples and bananas. (Allan Jan, biologist).

REPRODUCTION: Black Pacu aka Tambaqui usually spawn once per year in whitewater rivers and inundated floodplain forests. They are substratum egg scatterers and do not guard their eggs.

Life span: 20 years or more.

IUCN Red List and CITES Not Evaulated

REMARKS: C. macropomum has large nasal openings for excellent odor detection.
They can extend the lower lip in low oxygen water to increase flow across gills.
Adults are important as seed dispersers for large-seeded plants during seasonal flooding.
Farmed as a food fish in South America. They are popular in aquaculture because it can live in mineral poor waters and is very resistant to diseases.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Amazon Flooded Tunnel 2018

fishbase fishbase.org/summary/263

Docent Rainforest Course Materials, California Academy of Sciences. 2014

Ron’s WordPress shortlink   http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-8v

Ron’s flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/2973190705/in/set-72157620568438047/

United Nations www.fao.org/fishery/introsp/3885/en


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Osteoglossiformes
Family: Osteoglossidae (Bonytongues)

Genus/species: Osteoglossum bicirrhosum

 GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: The silvery body is covered with very big scales, and the dorsal and anal fins are almost fused with the caudal fin. They have a bony tongue with a huge oblique mouth and oral bones bearing teeth, including the jaw, palate, tongue and pharynx. Two barbels are found at the end of the lower jaw.

The Silver Arawana is a large fish with a length up to 1.2 m (4 ft) and weight up to 4.6 kg (10 lbs).

Silver ArawansIMG_1974

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: This fish is found in tropical freshwater, and is especially prevalent in flooded areas and swamps in the Amazon River system. It is capable of adapting to environments with low oxygen levels.

DIET IN THE WILD: O. bicirrhosum feed mainly on crustaceans, insects, smaller fishes, and other animals that float on the water; its upturned mouth is an adaptation for surface feeding. Sometimes called the “water monkey” for its jumping abilities, Silver Arawana have been known to leap some 2 m (6.5 ft) out of the water to pluck a surprised and often doomed insect or bird from overhanging branches. Bats and snakes have also been occasionally found as stomach contents.

REPRODUCTION: Interestingly, the Arawana male is a mouth brooder carrying eggs, larvae, and young juveniles in his mouth for about 2 months.

CONSERVATION: IUCN Red List; Not Evaluated
CITES: No special status

REMARKS: Arawana provide the largest source of protein in comparison to other Amazon fish. Also, because of its low-fat content, they are considered the most digestible and least likely to bring about sickness.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Amazon Flooded Tunnel 2018

Ron’s flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/15007803584/in/album-72157620568438047/

Ron’s WordPress shortlink   http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-a0

fishbase www.fishbase.org/summary/Osteoglossum-bicirrhosum.html

 Animal Diversity web animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Osteoglossum_bici…

 “It’s Easy Being Green” Docent Course. California Academy of Sciences 2014




Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae

Genus: Symphysodon aequifasciatus

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Color varies as they age. They present a dark brownish to green body. They have nine vertical bars along the body, but lack a bold centrally located bar. They have irregular metallic streaks along the belly, dorsal fin, anal fins, and on the dorsal area of the body of green, blue, or turquoise.

Length up to 5 inches (13.7 cm)

DISTRIBUTION/ HABITAT: Blue Discus are found in freshwater in the South America eastern Amazon River basin in Brazil In deep, rocky areas in crevices and among roots. Normally in schools.

DIET IN THE WILD: They feed on insect larvae, insects, and planktonic invertebrates.

REPRODUCTION: S. aequifasciatus eggs are deposited on stones or plants; both parents defend eggs and larvae; larvae feed on a skin mucus during their first few days.



California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium, Flooded Amazon 2018 (Vetted C Delbeek)

Ron’s Flickr  https://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/27863424969/in/dateposted-public/

fishbase www.fishbase.org/summary/Symphysodon-aequifasciatus.html

Animal Diversity Web. animaldiversity.org/accounts/Symphysodon_aequifasciatus/c…

Ron’s WordPress Shortlink wp.me/p1DZ4b-1TF








Actinopterygii (Ray-finned fishes) > Characiformes (Characins) > Lebiasinidae (Pencilfishes)

Copella arnoldi

 DISTRIBUTION: Amazon Basin.

 HABITAT: Slow-moving fresh water.

 APPEARANCE: Males tend to be larger and more colorful than females and have more elaborate fins. Max. length: 3.4 cm. 

 DIET: Worms, insects, and crustaceans.

 REPRODUCTION/DEVELOPMENT: The unusual behavior of the splashing tetra provides a unique strategy that keeps aquatic predators away from progeny: The male and female will leap out of the water as a pair, both remaining together while the female attaches her eggs to the leaves of plants at the water’s edge and the male then immediately fertilizes them. This procedure is repeated several times until 50 to 200 eggs have been laid. After attachment, the male, now in the water, faithfully flicks his tail every few minutes, shedding droplets of water onto the eggs to keep them moist. After 2 to 3 days the eggs hatch and the fry fall into the water below. The male’s attention then abates and the young tetras are on their own.

MORTALITY/LONGEVITY: Life span: about 3 years.

 REMARKS: In spite of their common name, they are not closely related to true tetras of the family Characidae found in a variety of other Steinhart exhibits.

Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/6939753715/in/set-72157629304397467

WORDPRESS SHORTLINK   http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-pP

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