21 Dangerous Animals You Can Only Find in Latin America
Some of the most dangerous animals in the world inhabit Latin America. While most prey on other species, some are known to harm and even kill humans if they come into contact with them.
1. Amazonian Giant Centipede
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The world’s biggest centipede, the Amazonian giant centipede can reach 14 inches in length. These carnivorous centipedes are found throughout South America, and kill prey by injecting a toxic venom. Although a bite will not kill people, it can cause a great deal of pain, along with swelling and fever.
2. Black Caiman
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One of the largest members of the crocodile family, the black caiman is native to the Amazon Basin and other freshwater Latin American areas. It is the largest predator in the Amazon, and like its alligator cousins further north, has been known to prey on people. The black caiman is endangered because it has been hunted extensively for leather.
3. Brazilian Wandering Spider
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The bite of this large, brown spider can kill people, especially small children. It is considered one of the most venomous spiders on the planet. They are also known as banana spiders or armed spiders. The eight species of these spiders are found throughout Brazil and the rest of Latin America.
4. Bullet Ant
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The bullet ant is so named because its sting is akin to being hit by a bullet. While a sting is extremely painful, it’s unlikely to prove fatal to a human unless they are stung by thousands of the creatures. Officially known as Paraponera clavate, the bullet ant is found in lower rainforests ranging from Nicaragua to Paraguay.
5. Bull Shark
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These stout sharks are the likeliest to attack humans. While they are more often found in the Gulf of Mexico, they are known to live in the Amazon River.
6. Electric Eel
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More appropriately known as the knifefish, the electric eel lives in the basins of the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers. The electric eel does generate electricity, and while the shock is not likely to kill a person, it could prove temporarily incapacitating and the individual might drown.
7. Giant Otter
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The endangered giant otter is found only in the Amazon, La Plata and Orinoco river areas. A member of the weasel family, it is the longest type of its species at 6 feet and adults may weigh as much 75 pounds. Giant otters live in large family groups and seldom threaten people, but there are reports of attacks on humans. Overall, though, humans are responsible for the vulnerable status of this animal due to poaching for the fur trade.
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Weight wise, the green anaconda is the world’s largest snake, but at 17 feet, it’s also quite long. While it rarely attacks humans, the green anaconda has been known to take down other large and carnivorous species, including jaguars. With its green body and black and yellow belly scales, the snake is a master of camouflage. They are found in rivers, streams and marshes throughout tropical Latin America.
9. Golden Poison Dart Frog
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This beautiful small frog is also the world’s deadliest. Native to Colombia’s Pacific Coast, the area’s indigenous people used the poison from this frog on darts while hunting to kill prey. Anyone touching this frog will likely die within minutes. The frog’s skin contains the toxin, which causes rapid heart failure in victims.
10. Goliath Bird Eating Spider
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This spider belongs to the tarantula family and is found throughout northern South America. In terms of sheer mass, it is the world’s largest spider. Humans are rarely bitten, and then only when the spider is defending itself. For people, the bite is comparable to a bee or wasp sting.
11. Harpy Eagle
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The biggest and most powerful raptor in the rainforest, the harpy eagle’s natural habitat ranges from Mexico to Argentina. However, development has destroyed much of its habitat and the bird is increasingly rare. The harpy eagle has been known to carry off livestock such as lambs and kids – baby goats, not humans – and has few natural predators other than man. The female is twice the size as the male, and pairs mate for life.
12. Humboldt Squid
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Also known as the jumbo squid, the Humboldt squid is found in the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Peru and Mexico. They are known for aggression towards people found
in their wake.
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The biggest cat in the Western Hemisphere, the South American jaguar is heavier than its feline wild cousins in North America. Although they have vanished in many areas, they are still found in Peru and neighboring countries. Jaguars do not usually attack people, but have been known to kill small children in the past.
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This large snake is found in southern Brazil and northern Argentina, and is one of the most likely snakes to bite humans in the region. The bite may cause shock and kidney failure, and can kill the victim without prompt treatment.
15. Kissing Bug
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The kissing bug sounds like such an innocuous name, but keep in mind it is also known as the vampire bug or the assassin bug. Found throughout Latin America, this bug can transmit a fatal infection known as Chagas through its feces. Chagas doesn’t cause instant death, but infected people are prone to developing heart disease. The name kissing bug comes from its tendency to bite sleeping humans on the mouth, but it is poop and not the bite that transmits Chagas.
16. Mexican Beaded Lizard
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A relative of the better-known Gila monster, this lizard resides in western Mexico. These two lizards are also the only venomous members of their species. However, humans are unlikely to suffer the consequences of this carnivorous lizard’s venom, as the venom is distributed by the animal actually chewing into its prey. Mexican beaded lizards are endangered in the wild.
17. Pit Viper
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These serpents make up the majority of venomous snakes in Latin America, and their bite rate on the local populace is relatively high. Such bites primarily cause deep tissue damage, but can prove fatal to some individuals.
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This piranha species is named for its red coloring from its face to its belly. When full-grown, this deadly fish may weigh up to four pounds. Red-bellied piranhas travel in schools of up to 20 individuals throughout the Amazon River basin. While this fish is naturally aggressive, attacks on humans are relatively uncommon.
19. South American Rattlesnake
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This is the only rattlesnake found throughout Latin America with the exception of the Andes Mountains, and it is also the most dangerous. Each year, several people in the region die from the bite of this snake, although lack of access to medical treatment is also a factor in these deaths. There are various subspecies of this rattlesnake which vary in color from light to dark, but all sport the familiar diamondback pattern.
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Also known as the fer-de-lance, this venomous species ranges from Mexico to northern South America. Because is often found near human dwellings, it is considered especially dangerous. When disturbed, they are known to vigorously attack.
21. Tree Boa
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Although the tree boa is not venomous, it can wrap itself around the neck of prey, choking its victim to death. While this does not often happen with human, it is a possibility. Native to the South American rainforests, the tree boa reaches 6 feet in length when full-grown. While the tree boa is green, body markings vary according to subspecies.