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Fast Facts: Brazil

Brazil’s Cerrado is the world’s most biologically rich savannah. It has over 10,000 species of plants of which 45% are exclusive to the Cerrado. Archaeological evidence shows that massive terror birds inhabited the Cerrado 10 million years ago, preying on the now extinct grazing animals. One such bird was 10 feet tall and could run as fast as a cheetah.

The Maned Wolf.

  • In Brazil’s Cerrado Grassland lives a wolf that prefers eating fruit to flesh. Although it also hunts small animals its diet consists mainly of the Wolf Apple, the fruit of the lobeira tree.
     
  • The lobeira tree in turn depends on the wolf for its continued existence.  The seeds won’t germinate until eaten and defecated by the wolf.

Giant Anteater.

  • The female Giant Anteater gives birth to a single baby which she carries on her back for up to a year.
     
  • A Giant Anteater has no teeth but its tongue of up to 60 cm (24 inches) long slurps up thousands of termites per day.
     
  • The anteater inflicts minimal damage to a termite mound, feeding for only about a minute before moving on to the next, allowing the termites to quickly repair the damage. This tactic means it doesn’t wipe out its food source.
     
  • The anteater has evolved many energy saving mechanisms including a core body temperature of just 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), the lowest of any land mammal.

Capuchin Monkey.

  • Capuchin monkeys can walk upright like humans – a useful adaption which allows them to carry the heavy stones they use to smash open the husks of nuts.
     
  • With the exception of a midday nap, they spend their entire day searching for food. At night they sleep in the trees, wedged between branches.

Rhea.

  • The Giant Rhea is a large bird resembling the African ostrich.
     
  • The male Rhea builds a nest in which between two and 15 females lay their eggs, so nests can contain up to 60 eggs.
     
  • The male sits on the eggs at night, while the dominant female takes care of the eggs during the day.

Termite mound.

  • Each termite mound has a number of squatters who take advantage of the termites' engineering skills and industry. They include Flicker birds, owls, Headlight Beetles and even snakes.
     
  • It takes the termites several decades to build a mound and some mounds are built over the course of centuries.

Glowing lights from headlight beetle larvae.

  • At night, once a year during the rainy season, the myriad of termite mounds on the Cerrado glow bright green.
     
  • The light comes from the larvae of the headlight beetles living in the complex mud structure. Their lights attract the termites out on their mating flights. This beautiful light show resembles stars falling to the earth. 
     
  • The beetle larvae feed on the flying termites for protein which they need to metamorphose from larvae to adults. 

Termite.

  • Each day the termites of a mound gather as much as 45 kilograms (100 pounds) of dry grass and carry it to their mound. That is about four times as much as a cow can eat in a day.
     
  • Each termite mound has only one breeder, the termite queen, who lays about 30,000 eggs a day.
     
  • Every time termites are lost from a colony, perhaps eaten by an anteater or an armadillo, it stimulates the queen to lay more eggs which develop into workers.