Engines Down, World’s Largest Rodent and Monster Catfish
With both engines down, the EP team is getting a slow start to their expedition down the River of Doubt. Fortunately, the extra time has given the team plenty of time to get acquainted with the Amazonian wildlife. Last night, the crew caught a glimpse of a Capybara (the world’s largest rodent) and caught a 3-foot-long catfish! They grow ’em big in the Amazon!
Capybara are semi-aquatic mammals found wild in much of South America in densely forested areas near bodies of water. Though now extinct, a larger capybara once existed that were eight times the size of modern capybara, which can grow up to 4.3 feet long and weigh up to 140 pounds. Yikes! Thank goodness these guys are vegetarians!
Thirty-four varieties of catfish make up the Siluriformes order of ray-finned fish. The Amazon is home to incredible catfish with specialisms to help them survive the tough conditions.
- Wood eating — Panaque fish have spoon-shaped teeth which they use to rasp at submerged wood. Bacteria in their guts convert plant cellulose into nutritious chemicals.
- Air breathing — The water in slow-moving parts of the Amazon river system is often low in the dissolved oxygen that fish need. Some types of catfish supplement the oxygen their gills absorb by swallowing air and breathing with their intestines.
- Land living — The phraetobius catfish has taken air-breathing to an extreme. It lives out of water, in the leaf litter on stream banks. Blood vessels all over its skin mean its entire body is capable of gaseous exchange. It has no eyes and uses touch to detect its insect prey.
- Fisherman frightening — The jaú (Paulicea lutkeni) is notorious among native people. It grows to 1.5m and can weigh over 100kg. Immense strength gives rise to its reputation for dragging fishermen down into the depths.
Well, that’s it for now. Let’s hope we get to see more monster fish and even bigger rapids soon!