In 1541, the Spaniard, Francisco de Orellana sailed the length of the Amazon River for the first time. Attacked on his voyage by longhaired Indians, Francisco mistakenly thought that these were warrior women, and named the river, the Amazon, after the Amazons – female warriors, who according to Greek mythology would chop off their right breast so it would not interfere with drawing a bow.
The Amazon, a fresh water river, traverses most of the South American countries. With a length of 6000 kilometers (approximately 12 times the length of the State of Israel), the Amazon is the second longest river in the world after the Nile, which surpasses it by 384 kilometers. It is the widest river in the world – 320 kilometers – (equivalent to the distance between Eilat and Rehovot). The tide waters of the river reach the height of a seven storey building. The jungle is a rainforest and is home to the greatest variety of flora and fauna in the world. The rainforests have tremendous importance in the ecological system, as the trees there emit great quantities of oxygen. The rainforests and the animals living there are in danger of extinction because of human activities; every two seconds a wooded area the size of a football field is felled. 2400 species of fish, approximately double the number of fish species in the Red Sea, can be found in the Amazon River. The river is also home to river dolphins. (The animals on display here were all born in captivity and are not in danger of extinction).

Crocodiles
Crocodiles are the noisiest of the reptiles with a cry reminiscent of rolling thunder. Active at night, they hunt mainly in the water but can emerge and also eat on dry land. After preparing a high, mounded nest from vegetation and soil, the female crocodile lays between 40-60 elliptic hard shelled eggs, which are then incubated by the sun. At the time of hatching, the crocodile breaks open the nest and the offspring stay close to the mother for four months. The crocodile is an air-breathing reptile, but is adapted for aquatic living by raised eyes and nostrils which close up in the water. Although the crocodile has webbed feet, it swims mainly with the help of its tail. Crocodiles have 75 sharp teeth, and being cold blooded like all reptiles, they bask in the sun in order to store energy for their activities.

Black Caiman Crocodile
This is the largest crocodile in the Amazon River reaching a length of six meters. Like humans, it has a life span of 70-90 years. The black caiman feeds on piranha fish, frogs, turtles, snakes and other animals up to the size of monkeys and wild pigs. They have been known to devour house pets and people. The black caiman crocodile is in danger of extinction.

Piranha
Piranhas swim in schools numbering hundreds of fish. They are active during the day. Piranhas have teeth which are stronger and sharper than those of a shark and can splinter bone in one bite and gnaw through thick iron wire. They can devour an animal or 50 kilo person within a few minutes. When a tooth falls out it is replaced by a new tooth. Piranha fish are omnivorous, eating fish, insects, birds, lizards, rodents and carcasses. Their enemies: mature piranhas devour their young (cannibalism), crocodiles, water snakes, turtles, birds, otters and humans (piranha flesh is very tasty). Piranhas are not in danger of extinction.

Anaconda Snake
Weighing up to 180 kilos, the anaconda is the heaviest snake in the world. One of the longest snakes in the world, it can reach a length of over ten meters. Anacondas are water-dwelling constrictor snakes. Food: nearly everything; crocodiles, capybara and other snakes. The anaconda snake is not in danger of extinction. The female is three to five times larger than the male. Characteristically there is multiple mating; the female exudes a scent trail attracting many males (up to 13), and together they create a mating ball, and remain intertwined for four weeks. Following a gestation period of half a year, the female gives birth to about 60 living young, each a meter long.

Aruana Fish
A unique fish, indigenous to the Amazon, the aruana lives in calm waters. Growing to a maximum length of 20 centimeters and maximum weight of 4.6 kilo, it is considered a living remnant from the dinosaur period. Its Latin name is “stone tongue”. The aruana eats everything but particularly fish close to the water surface. The aruana can leap out of the water to a height of almost two meters in order to catch large insects or even birds. The male carries the eggs in its mouth for two months till the young hatch. After hatching, the male continues to care for the young, releasing them occasionally in order to eat, following which they return to his mouth independently. The fish can survive in environments with little oxygen.

Anolis
Two species of lizards from the iguana family. The anolis can change colors according to the environment and mood. Food: insects and spiders. In the mating season the male spreads open a colorful fold of skin under its neck and performs a type of “press up” in order to establish territoriality. There are 300 different species of anolis.

Tarantula – Popular name for spiders belonging to the Theraposidae family
There are hundreds of species of tarantulas and all have eight eyes. The maximum size of the tarantula is up to 25 centimeters. Tarantulas, most of which require a humid environment and high air humidity, live mainly live in damp areas or in humid micro climates at the base of their deep, dugout burrows. Food: tarantulas need drinking water. They eat large soft bodied insects such as cicadas, grasshoppers, mealworm larvae, cockroaches and moths. Large tarantulas can also devour baby mice. The tarantula is covered with hairy bristles as protection against predators. If a tarantula is swallowed, a poison is released from its bristles into the mouth of the predator causing it to be spat out. The female lives for an average of 15-20 years while certain species live longer. The fully grown female molts annually, whereas the males molt till they reach sexual maturity, then live for another year to a year and a half without molting.
Tarantulas are cannibals. Female tarantulas who have been known to live over 40 years devour the male at the end of the first mating season. Up to a thousand spiderlings hatch from the tarantula eggs.

Red- Eared Turtle (named for the red patch on the side of its ear)
This fresh water turtle, native to the southern USA, is found worldwide. It grows to a length of 30 centimeters.
The males are smaller than the females and have a longer tail and longer claws on their front feet. Their life span is between 30-40 years.
The natural predators of the turtle are crows, fish, snakes, frogs and birds. Ants can attack their eggs. Their diet consists of various insects, snails, invertebrates, fish and water vegetation.
These turtles reach sexual maturity between five to seven years of age. Courtship is performed like a dance. The male strokes the face of the female with his long nails, swims around her and vibrates the front of her shell with his long nails.
The mating continues for 15 minutes. After mating, the female swims away searching for a suitable place to spawn. Once she has found a suitable place using her back legs she digs a hole to a depth of 5-11 centimeters in which she lays 4-23 eggs.
Two and a half months later, baby turtle hatchlings emerge from the eggs, run in the direction of the river and hide from predators. In one season the female can lay between one and three clutches of eggs.

Lung Fish
Today we know of six species of lung fish. The reason these fish are so interesting is that they are air breathers. Some species breathe air even though they have gills, and some have developed a type of lung allowing them to breathe air when out of the water. The respiratory apparatus of these fish is very similar to the respiratory system of various ancient amphibians. Most of the present known species live in rivers and streams of Australia, South America and Africa. Lung fish have an elongated thin body, similar to an eel, and have two lungs. They sense their surroundings with their side fins. In South America, fish over a meter long have been seen, and in Africa species are found of up to almost 2 meters in length.
After the mating season and before laying the eggs, the lung fish in the rivers of South America plan and carefully build a nest for the eggs. After the female lays the eggs in the nest, the male guards and protects the nest till the larvae hatch. Upon hatching, the larvae have gills which disappear upon reaching maturity. Another very special characteristic of the lung fish is the ability to survive in an almost waterless area and even in totally waterless conditions.
In the dry period in the Amazon when the heat evaporates the water, lung fish burrow into a puddle of mud and lie there, motionless, till the water level rises. During the period when they are buried under mud their body metabolism is so sluggish they hardly need any nutrition. Research has shown that certain species can survive in these conditions for two years.

23 Jan

Basic Concepts What is a coral? A coral is an animal organism living in colonies of polyps. At the end of each polyp are hunting tentacles surrounding a central mouth. Using its hunting tentacles, the polyp traps its food of tiny sea creatures. Each polyp in the colony is independent and although some of the […]

23 Jan

The reciprocal relationships between the various life forms and their environment The coral reef is a most complex and diverse ecosystem. This is actually one of the largest natural structures on Earth, and has been created by living creatures. Stony corals are the main component of the coral reef, forming the complex and complicated limestone […]

With an ungainly body full of lumps and bumps, heavy movements, a large head, protruding eyes, and a big mouth adapted to suck in its prey, the Synanceia family is a close relative to the scorpion fish (Scorpaenidae) and lionfish (Pterois) families. These fish are venomous seabed dwellers with a body structure and behavior which aid in their camouflage. For most of the time they are partially buried in the seabed waiting to ambush their prey, which is mainly fish. When a fish passes by, they suddenly open their jaws wide and suck in a quantity of water along with their prey. The water is expelled in a stream through their gills and the dorsal gill cover, while the prey stays in the mouth. As this method of nutrition hardly requires movement, these fish can survive for long periods without food. There are two species found in the Gulf of Eilat: star gazer, also known as two-stick sting fish, and stone fish.

Stone Fish
This fish lives alone in shallow water up to a depth of 20 meters and can reach a length of 45 centimeters.
Like all members of the Synanceia family, the stone fish has a wide, chunky body resembling a bumpy rock. On its dorsal fin, located above poison glands, are 13 venomous spikes. Its ability to change color according to its environment, offers camouflage against the general backdrop of the reef.
The stone fish has a stone like shape and sheds its skin a few times a year. It has a weakened swim bladder and most of the time lies motionless on the back of a rock. Algae frequently grow on its skin humps, lending the stone fish a greenish hue. It feeds mainly on fish.

Caution

The stone fish is regarded as the most dangerous fish in the Red Sea. The barbs on its dorsal fin are sharp and poisonous, and a sting can be life threatening. In the event of being stung, the victim must be evacuated immediately to a hospital.
We strongly recommend entering the sea wearing suitable shoes.

Two-Stick Sting Fish, also known as Star Gazer
Synanceia family. A relative of the stone fish and with similar behavior, this fish is a solitary dweller in the shallow reef and sandy areas. It has limited swimming ability, and moves along the seabed in jumps, or crawls using its wide pectoral fanlike fins. With excellent camouflage colors and a delicate cylindrical body, the star gazer grows up to a length of 30 centimeters. It has a wide, flat head, with skin flaps and bumps, and has spikes located above poison glands. The star gazer has round, protruding eyes, wide pectoral fins resembling a fan, and is an overall brown color.
When in danger, it spreads its pectoral fins revealing dazzling colors (yellow, orange and black) as a warning to other fish. In this way it alerts its attackers and scares them off.
The stargazer feeds on fish it captures by ambush. When a fish draws near, it powerfully and quickly opens its mouth creating a vacuum, and the fish is sucked into its mouth.

Caution
At the base of its spines are poison glands and this fish is nearly as dangerous as the stone fish.

23 Jan

One of the most outstanding features of reef fishes is their remarkable assortment of vibrant colors and variety of patterns. Reef fish use their color for numerous reasons including camouflage for defense, for show, to warn enemies and predators, to attract attention, and to communicate (for example during reproduction). The fish themselves are endowed with […]

The lion fish is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating and graceful of nocturnal predators. Active by night, it spends its days in permanent caverns and alcoves.
The length of an adult lion fish is about 50 cm. It has an elongated body and a large bulky head at the front of which is a wide mouth. Above each eye it has a protruding membranous “horn” which gets shorter with age. The lion fish has 13 long, sharp and venomous spines on its back. Every spine is grooved and has a venomous gland surrounding its base. The venom secreted from the gland flows into the groove surrounded by a thin film. When the spines prick, a small amount of venom penetrates into the wound, causing intense pain. The wounded area swells and the burning pain can last more than a day. Pain may be accompanied by some serious symptoms: difficulty breathing, fever and nausea. If you get pricked by a lion fish, you must get to a hospital immediately. The spines at the front of the dorsal fin are very long and are not connected to a membrane (as is customary). Each spine is wrapped in a narrow and separate membranous lobe.

The lion fish has a reddish back, an orange belly and dark longitudinal stripes along its sides.
Unlike other reef fish, the lion fish cannot change its color according to the environment or its “mood”. It feeds on fish and invertebrates, and lies motionless in the water awaiting its prey. When a small fish approaches, the lion fish opens its mouth and with a suction movement draws in the prey. During the breeding season, males court and attract females with a swimming display. Fertilization takes place in water, about 30 meters deep, where the female releases her eggs in all directions. The young fish are transparent and only when they are older do they get color and develop adult features. Their venom glands are still inactive at this stage, and they cannot use them as a deterrent against enemies. However, they are in the process of developing their poisonous glands and will begin to secrete the deadly venom at a few months old.
The lion fish is a peaceful creature that will ignore or swim away from a diver in close proximity, but if provoked, it won’t withdraw and may instead direct its sting at the intruder and even attack him.

Clearfin turkey fish
The clearfin turkey fish is similar to the lionfish but there are differences. This species has a pair of completely separated fin rays. It is a reddish-brown color with bright stripes across the length of its body.
The clearfin turkey fish does not have membrane that connects the spines on its dorsal fin. As an adult it is up to 20 cm long. Like the lion fish it can cause severe harm.

Emperor Angelfish live in isolation or in pairs in all areas of the reef. They live in permanent lagoons at the reef front, jealously guarding it from intrusion of its own kind.
Juveniles live close to the sea floor inside holes, and serve as the cleaners of other fish.
An adult fish can be as long as 40 cm and its body is flat and tall in structure. The adult is blue with horizontal golden stripes. Its tail fin, dorsal fin and the top of its head are also golden and its head is decorated with a wide black bar with light blue edges. It has a large prominent thorn at the bottom of its first gill cover.
The juvenile has a different color pattern –- a dark body with white arched lines.
Angelfish feed on algae, sponges and invertebrates.
Once the head of the lagoon is eaten, the juvenile changes its color within a short time and becomes the new leader.
Planktonic eggs and larvae float freely and are carried by the flowing water.

Royal angelfish
Royal Angelfish are part of the Angelfish family and live in isolation. They are found mostly in shallow coral reefs. The adult can be up to 25 cm long. It gets its name from the colored stripes across its body. Its body is flat and tall in structure. It has a large thorn located in the first gill cover. The only difference in appearance between the juvenile and the adult is that the juvenile has a spot in the form of a “false eye” at the back of the dorsal fin. This fish feeds mainly on algae, sponges, shellfish and invertebrates.

The family of Surgeon Fishes
These fish have flat bodies covered with many small scales. Their eyes are relatively high on the head and they have a small mouth. Their small mouths have many incisors.
The characteristic markings of the surgeon fish are one or two bony plates along the sides of the tail base. In some species these plates are razor-sharp, and serve as strong defensive weapons against predators or in wars with other species, hence the name “surgeon” fish.
Active by day, most surgeon fish live in schools and feed on large algae.
During breeding, they school together in large groups and release their eggs and sperm cells into the water. The eggs are planktonic.
Different species of surgeonfish: yellowtail, sailfin, blue tang, two-tone tang and more.

Yellowtail Surgeon fish
Active by day, the Yellowtail is found in schools, and is 22 cm in size as an adult. It has a steep head profile, a short nose and black eyes. It is a purplish blue color, with a yellow tail fin and a yellow pectoral fin tip. Both sides of the tail base have a razor-sharp thorn that is used for defense and can be pulled out and put back into place. The yellowtail feeds on algae which it scrapes with its spoon-shaped teeth.

Sailfin Surgeon Fish
The Sailfin lives in schools and can grow up to 40 cm in size. It is a grayish – brown color with horizontal bright lines across the body. Its dorsal fins and belly are large, and look like a sail, hence the name. This fish has a straight tail with a thorn at the tail base. When in danger, the thorn is removed for defense. The Sailfin feeds mainly on algae that grow on stones and small animals that cling to the seaweed.

23 Jan

Sea Cucumbers are characterized by their cylindrical shape. Their mouth is located on the front part of the body, and the anus on the rear portion of the body. They have five paired rows of water-filled tube feet on the lower portion of their body. In the region of their mouth the feet have turned […]

The puffer fish is a slow swimmer that lives in the vicinity of the reef. Their size varies from 5 to 50 centimeters.
Their body is wide and elongated and grows progressively narrower towards the tail. The front of the head is elongated with a short spout and at its end is the mouth. A strong, short beak extends from the mouth. This is made up of the fusion of four teeth. The eyes are placed high on the sides of the head. The back fins and the back end (the underside of the body) are short and permanently placed at the back of the body. The tail fin is rounded. The skin is thick and is covered in many spiked scales.
They feed on algae, sponges, invertebrates, molluscs, pieces of skin, worms and shrimps. This is made possible by the use of their tough teeth.
In times of danger, they swallow large quantities of water or air into a pouch that extends from their stomach and the fish becomes the shape of a ball. This is where the name “Abu Nafcha” (the swollen one) comes from – given to it by Arab fishermen.
Some of its organs contain poisons that can be fatal and so the fish is inedible!!!! The poison and its potency vary according to the area it is found in, the season of the year and the species of the genus. When in danger, the fish excretes poisonous mucus from its body as a defense mechanism.

Bristly Puffer
This species is the deadliest enemy of the large starfish – Cyphastrea
It is mainly active in the late afternoon and at night. By day it hides in shaded places on the reef and goes down to a depth of up to ten meters.

Pygmy Toby
Its size as an adult reaches 5 centimeters. It lives alone or in small groups in the open areas of small niches. It also excretes poisonous mucus in a time of danger, as do all the species in this genus.

23 Jan

Relationships in which the partners do not harm each other bu rather make a substantial contribution to is other are called symbiotic relationships. These are close relationships between animals from different groups, in which both parties benefit from the partnership. A classic example of a symbiotic relationship in the sea is the relationship between the […]