When most people think of South American animals images of colorful birds, huge snakes, and perhaps llamas come to mind. South America is in fact a place where these types of animals live; however there are numerous other amazing species found on this vast continent. In this section of Interesting Animal Facts you will find information about some of the well-known animals that inhabit this continent as well as those you may never have been aware of.
Below we have listed some general facts about South American animals as well as a list of some of the common animals indigenous to that continent. The other pages within this section of Interesting Animal Facts have detailed information about specific animals written for both kids and adults.
General Facts about South American Animals
South America is a huge continent with a wide range of climates and terrains. You have everything from the snow covered Andes Mountains as one extreme to the dry La Guajira Desert located in Colombia as the other extreme. The climate has a great influence on the types of species found in various regions.
Many animals found on this continent are not found anywhere else in the world. They evolved when South America was relatively isolated from the rest of the world. This isolation ended several million years ago when South America and Central America were joined due to volcanic activity which created the Isthmus of Panama; the thin piece of land joining Central and South America. This enabled animals to migrate from North and Central America into South America and vice versa.
In northern South America you will find the huge Amazon rainforest. This rainforest covers approximately one third of the entire continent and is home to the greatest assortment of animal life on the earth.
With over three thousand species of birds South America is often referred to as the bird continent. Birds can be found in every region; from the condor high in the Andes Mountains to the Macaws in the steamy Amazon Rainforest.
Ecuador is home to approximately eighteen percent of the earths bird species. This small country has more species of birds per square mile than any other country in Latin American. This is comparable to Brazil which is approximately thirty times larger than Ecuador.
The habitat of many of the animals in South America is being destroyed at an alarming rate; especially those that live in the Amazon Rainforest. Deforestation due to reasons like logging and agriculture are the main reasons for this problem.
The only bear native to South America is the Spectacled Bear. They are the continents largest carnivore and its second largest land mammal (only the Tapir is larger).
Many animals have adapted to life in South America. For example the South American jaguar has learned to swim. This ability enables it to not only pursue prey on land but also in the plentiful rivers and streams of the Amazon Rainforest.