The rainforests of the Amazon are one of the most amazing and unique ecosystems on the planet—the dense forests store between 90 and 140 billion tonnes of carbon and are home to one in 10 of every known species on earth.
As huge as these numbers seem, they largely underestimate the significance of the Amazon. More than any other place, the Amazon rainforest is home to untold numbers of undiscovered species. Between 1999 and 2009 more than 1,400 new species were found in the Amazon—more discoveries than all other regions of high biodiversity combined.
Often, when a new species is discovered in the Amazon, it redefines what researchers believe is possible for the genus. Take the Martialis heureka
, known commonly as the "ant from mars."
Adapted to live its life beneath the soil, this ant is pale, has no eyes, and very large mandibles. Such discoveries, researchers believe, indicates the vast and significant wealth of species waiting to be discovered in the Amazon.
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Photo credit: Christian Rabeling