The plants, areas, animals, and tribes of the Amazon rainforest hold many mysteries. It is fascinating that there is still so much we don't know about this majestic forest, even though it's one of the most important in the world, as it provides 20% of overall oxygen. On the other hand, what else would you expect from a region as vast as the whole extent of the Amazon River (6992 km) and the area of the forest (6.7 million km2)? Unlike some relatively well-known and rather explored sites of the Amazon (unfortunately, we mostly learned their secrets through exploitation), the region's remote areas remain mysterious. Concealed in the shadows, these chambers of lush flora harbor deep mysteries, fascinating animals, and nomadic tribes. Ready to go on an adventure?
Is any of the Amazon Unexplored? What is the Most Unexplored Part?
The Amazon's unexplored forest is dense and challenging to traverse, with immense trees blocking the pathway. These woods are believed to be home to hundreds if not thousands of species still unknown to science! The nomadic indigenous peoples are the only people who know about the potential inhabitants of this wonderland. The dark Amazon wonderland, however, leaves no wonder about how scientists have lost their lives exploring these forests. Contacting the indigenous tribes is borderline impossible due to the area's limited access to electricity and other services. Think of Ecuador with its famous Mura Nunka! Nothing but nature and mystery.
List of Biggest Secrets & Mysteries of the Amazon Rainforest
There are many incredible mysteries in the Amazon forest, however the plant kingdom surely has some of the most exciting ones.
Jabuticaba (Brazilian Grapetree)
This tree is something you would see in a horror movie. Invasive fruit on the bark of the tree make its appearance appalling… In all the best, mysterious ways. The name is not quite so threatening though, Plinia cauliflora. Maybe if we think of a fluffy cauliflower, the black fruit will stop scaring us so much!
Giant Water Lily
This plant has leaves so large and strong that they can support the weight of an adult person. The giant water lily, or Victoria amazonica, is undoubtedly the largest among its kind, with leaves about 3.2 feet/1 m in diameter and stems as tall as trees, lurking under the surface of the water.
The walking palm is a curiosity of the rainforest. Unfortunately, you won't find it walking freely around or running for protection from a jaguar. However, Socratea exorrhiza, or Cashapona, can walk in its own way. Socratea moves in the direction of the sun, due to the asymmetrical growth of its roots, which tilt in the direction that receives the most sunlight. The darkness of the Amazon forest is no joke!
This plant is mysterious for several reasons. First, it has no roots or leaves. Second, it has no photosynthesis but produces heat. Third, it is a parasite. And last, it exudes an unpleasant smell like rotting meat, it produces heat. And just when you think you’ve heard enough, we should also let you know it’s gigantic, reaching up to 3.2 feet/1 meter in diameter. You’re welcome.
Other Interesting Mysteries of the Amazon Rainforest
Shanay-Timpishka (the River of Boiling Water)
Thinking about going for a swim in the Amazon? There's a river we'd like to warn you about. With temperatures of up to 208.4-230°F (98-110ºC), it's no exaggeration to say that Shanay-Timpishka is boiling (literally). Even though the river was named after the sun's heat, geologists explain the phenomenon by the earth's geothermal gradient and, possibly, anthropogenic reasons, such as mining sites releasing gas.
A giant humanoid animal at least 8.20 feet, or two and a half metres, tall! I know momma says to speak with your chest, but the Mapinguary, who roars terrible noises from the mouth on its stomach, takes this advice to a new level. Native myths report that its smell is so strong that people who smell it faint. Though there have been expeditions in search of this animal, none have produced sufficient evidence to verify its existence. Legend has it that it is a shaman who was trapped in this form after finding immortality, but more scientific explanations propose it is a misunderstood species of ground sloth thought to have been extinct for over 9000 years.
Would you go for a picnic in the Amazon? We hesitate to answer.
Is the Amazon Forest Dangerous?
The mysteries it holds, the structure of the forest, the intense flora and fauna, the mysticism and the conflicts between its human populations make the Amazon forest a dangerous place. The undergrowth of the Amazon can be extremely dark even in the middle of the day. Who turned out the lights? It was a dense layering of leaves that captures up to 99% of sunlight. Here are a few more reasons:
- The river and forest are home to large, dangerous animals. Most famous among them might be the giant Anaconda, a 6-meter long snake that devours other animals whole!
- Armed conflicts rage between natives and outsiders who would seek to exploit and destroy the forest for economic gain.
- Guerrilla groups and drug traffickers have used the jungle as their headquarters because of the secrecy offered by its foliage. Be it due to cartel movements, a perplexingly difficult-to-navigate environment or an anaconda with deviant tastes, a number of missing persons are reported from the Amazon each year.
Don't get too scared, though! As risky as the Amazon forest can be, many people inhabit it and take advantage of its riches.
The People Who Live in the Amazon Forest
The Amazon forest is inhabited by unrelated native tribes, farmers and ranchers, miners and other groups. There are about four hundred indigenous tribes in the Amazon. Most tribes live in the riparian forest, usually in settled agrarian communities, but in some cases moving as hunter-gatherers.
The Amazonian peoples of Peru and Colombia have rights to the land on which they live, but in these countries as well as in Brazil the peoples have territorial conflicts with outsiders who seek to exploit the forest's resources because of its richness in minerals, gas, timber, wildlife and fertile land for cattle ranching.
Organised groups within the tribes have risen up to stop the abuse of outsiders. They defend the Amazon rainforest and river, but are not backed by legislation. As such, they put their lives at risk by taking on the role of defenders of the Amazon.
Access to Goods in the Amazon
Although stereotypes may hold that aborigines only use handmade tools, they have access to manufactured goods commonly used by non-indigenous people such as clothes, mobile phones, weapons, and motorbikes.
Feeling at Home
Natives, not to be mistaken for outsiders after a trip abroad, strip naked and immediately change into their traditional cultural dress.
Tribes Cut off from Each Other
Of all the tribes, at least 50 are almost entirely isolated. The lives and activities of the indigenous peoples are very important to the Amazon forest; large tracts of forest have been protected because of their presence.
People adapt to anything. Could you imagine living in the Amazon forest?
Explorers of the Amazon Forest
Although doubtlessly the most experienced in this matter, the indigenous populations of Amazonia are not the only who have seen its depths. Many explorers have made journeys and inhabited its depths for more than a century. Of them, many were scientists, who returned with reports of informative and mystifying plants and animals. What scientists could resist!
Francisco de Orellana
This was the captain of the first ship that sailed the Amazon River on behalf of the European conquerors who arrived in South America in the 16th century. Orellana is credited with having discovered the Amazon rainforest for the West. After several years in Spain following his first voyage, Francisco de Orellana returned to Amazonia, but not as a conquistador but as a pirate. He followed his heart to the end; and his heart, like his end, was in the Amazon.
José Celestino Mutis
In 1760, while working as a doctor to the viceroy of Nueva Granda (now Colombia and Ecuador), José Celestino Mutis had to embark on a journey without so much as time to say goodbye to his family. Yet, while he decided to leave for duty, it seems he was motivated even more by the call to adventure. Once in America he developed his studies as a physician and botanist among other scientific fields. He discovered plants with medicinal properties; his 34 year stay allowed him to document 3500 plant species in the rainforest.
Alexander von Humboldt
In 1799, Alexander von Humboldt embarked on a significant journey to the Americas accompanied by his friend Bonpland. Their expedition held a multifaceted purpose encompassing the challenge of comprehending the interplay between humans and nature. Their exploration spanned disciplines like geography, botany, zoology, and more. Humboldt, celebrated as a dedicated naturalist, earned his reputation as the archetypal universal scientist. While in the Amazon, he pioneered the study of biogeography, meticulously chronicled the indigenous flora and fauna, and even delved into research on crop fertilizers.
During the mid-19th century, Percival Fawcett ventured deep into the Amazon rainforest with the purpose of discovering the elusive lost city of Raposo, often referred to as "Z" in reference to Portuguese manuscripts. This legendary city was rumored to be concealed within the heart of the jungle. Despite multiple subsequent expeditions in search of Fawcett, his remains were eventually found. The prevailing belief is that Fawcett and his companions met their fate at the hands of indigenous tribes.
In the company of contemporary scientific explorers, Thiago Silva stands out for his dedicated focus on understanding the effects of flooding on the Amazon rainforest's vegetation. Silva's studies furnish invaluable insights into the forest's resilience, how its plant biodiversity responds to flooding, and its remarkable ability to sequester carbon even in flood-prone conditions. Such contributions significantly advance our comprehension of the forest's behavior in the context of a warming global climate.
Shoutout to the people brave enough to traverse the forest of Amazon!
Dark Realities of the Amazon Rainforest
While the Amazon rainforest is celebrated for its breathtaking beauty and natural wonders, it also conceals unsettling truths and mysteries:
- Electric eels inhabit the rivers, their electric shocks proving fatal to those who venture into the water.
- At least two cannibal tribes are known to inhabit the Amazon.
- Paramilitary groups have exploited the region, leaving abandoned mines scattered throughout the terrain.
- The Amazon serves as a conduit for extensive drug trafficking networks.
- The forest confronts persistent deforestation, losing approximately 4% of its territory annually.
- The Peruvian segment of the forest is said to be home to the Chullachaqui, a creature believed to lead people, including children, astray within the forest.
- The Mapinguary, described as a large hairy creature with a mouth on its belly, is rumored to dwell deep within the forest, posing a threat to humans.
- The Strychnos plant boasts around 500 species, known for their highly toxic properties used by locals to poison arrows.
- The rubber trade in the 1900s led to the enslavement and suffering of 22 indigenous groups, resulting in the deaths of thousands.
- Quicksand patches on the forest floor pose a danger to unsuspecting travelers.
We bet there's more. The question is, do you really want to know? We care about the sleep of our readers!
Amazon is amazing, it's a fact… And dark secrets are always much more exciting than the regular science stuff, as long as you don't go looking for them yourself!
Have Missing Children Been Found in the Amazon?
Instances of missing children are not uncommon in the Amazon. In a recent example, indigenous children survived for 40 days in an unexplored Colombian forest region after a plane crash. They were eventually rescued due to the dedicated efforts of search teams.
What Is the Least Explored Part of the Amazon?
Several regions within the Amazon rainforest remain largely unexplored across various countries. Notably, the Chiribiquete region in Colombia and the Mura Nunka hills in Ecuador stand out as among the least explored areas of the Amazon.