The Pantanal (Portuguese pronunciation: [pɐ̃taˈnaw]) is a natural region encompassing the world's largest tropical wetland area, and the world's largest flooded grasslands. It is located mostly within the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, but it extends into Mato Grosso and portions of Bolivia and Paraguay. It sprawls over an area estimated at between 140,000 and 195,000 square kilometres (54,000 and 75,000 sq mi). Various subregional ecosystems exist, each with distinct hydrological, geological and ecological characteristics; up to 12 of them have been defined.

Roughly 80% of the Pantanal floodplains are submerged during the rainy seasons, nurturing a biologically diverse collection of aquatic plants and helping to support a dense array of animal species.

The Pantanal ecosystem is home to some 463 species of birds, 269 species of fishes, more than 236 species of mammals, 141 species of reptiles and amphibians, and over 9,000 subspecies of invertebrates.

The apple snail is a keystone species in Pantanal's ecosystem. When the wetlands are flooded once a year, the grass and other plants will eventually die and start to decay. During this process, decomposing microbes deplete the shallow water of all oxygen, suffocating larger decomposers. Unlike other decomposing animals, the apple snails have both gills and lungs, making it possible for them to thrive in anoxic waters where they recycle the nutrients. To get oxygen, they extend a long snorkel to the water surface, pumping air into their lungs. This ability allows them to consume all the dead plant matter and turn it into nutritious fertilizer available for the plants in the area. The snails themselves are also food for a variety of animals.Among the rarest animals to inhabit the wetland of the Pantanal are the marsh deer (Blastocerus dichotomus) and the giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis).

Parts of the Pantanal are also home to the following endangered or threatened species: the hyacinth macaw (Anodorhyncus hyacinthinus) (a bird endangered due to smuggling), the crowned solitary eagle, the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), the bush dog (Speothos venaticus), the South American tapir (Tapirus terrestris) and the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla). Common species in the Pantanal include the capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and the yacare caiman (Caiman yacare). According to 1996 data, there were 10 million caimans in the Pantanal, making it the highest concentration of crocodilians in the World.

The Pantanal is home to one of the largest and healthiest jaguar (Panthera onca) populations on Earth.

There are thirteen species of herons and egrets, six species of ibises and spoonbills, and five species of kingfishers that use the Pantanal as a breeding and feeding ground. There are nineteen species of parrots documented in the Pantanal, including five species of macaws. Some migratory birds include the American golden plover, Peregrine falcon, and the Bobolink.Most fish are detritivores, primarily ingesting fine particles from sediments and plant surfaces. This is characteristic of fish living in South American flood-plains in general. Fish migration between river channels and flood-plain regions occurs seasonally. These fish have many adaptations that allow them to survive in the oxygen-depleted flood-plain waters.In addition to the caiman, some of the reptiles that inhabit the Pantanal are the yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus), the gold tegu (Tupinambis teguixin), the red-footed tortoise (Geochelone carbonaria) and the green iguana (Iguana iguana).

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