Hola! Hello! Glad you could join us in South America—the triangular continent that's wide up north and skinny down south. Here, you will find:
• Vast rainforests full of fantastic living diversity
• The world's driest desert—the Atacama
• The world's largest river—the Amazon
• The world's highest waterfall—Angel Falls
• The world's longest mountain range— the Andes
This is one of Earth's great centers of biodiversity. For example some scientists think there may be more than a million kinds of insects here, most of which are beetles!
Let's focus our attention on the Amazon River — the biggest river in the world. (The Nile River, in Africa, is longer, but the Amazon carries more water.) Here, during the rainy season, the water level rises more than 40 feet. That’s when the jungle around the river becomes a flooded forest, and some of the fish love that because they get to eat fruit hanging from branches that are otherwise out of their reach.
Freshwater hatchetfish Carnegiella spp. can flap their side fins at high speed and “fly” just above the surface of the water for a distance of three feet or more. While flying, they make a buzzing noise.
Speaking of Amazon fishes, the red-bellied piranha has impressive little teeth shaped like the ones on a buzz saw. Despite the piranha's reputation in Hollywood, it rarely strips flesh from cows and animals. Instead, it prefers to gnaw on tourists. Just kidding! In fact, these fishes rarely bite people. More frequently, they nip at the fins of other fishes, including other piranha.
Anyway, since we don't have time to explore all of South America and get you back home in time to do your homework, this adventure focuses on the Manu Biosphere Reserve in the country of Peru. This is one of Earth's great wilderness areas.
Now dress lightly because it's hot and humid there. In fact if you send a letter home (remember what a letter is, you texters) you probably won't have to lick the stamp.