The River's Edge

Saffron Toucanet

Saffron Toucanet, Pteroglossus bailloni

This toucanet is easily identified by its saffron yellow head and breast, olive mantle and red rump. Sexes are similar but the female is duller (somewhat more olive in color) and the bill is shorter. The greenish-horn bill has red patches surrounded by yellowish-gray at the base. The rump and ocular skin are red. The iris is pale yellowish.

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Blue poison dart frog

Blue poison dart frog, Dendrobates azureus

When these amazing frogs first appeared in zoos in the 1970s, they created a sensation and remained very rare in collections until the mid-1980s. They are now widespread in captivity, thanks to their popularity. As with other poison dart frogs, captive-bred animals raised on fruit flies and crickets lose their toxic qualities. Found only on a few “islands” of forest, arising out of the Sipaliwini savannah of Suriname and Brazil, they are considered vulnerable to extinction, so that their status as a self-sustaining captive population is especially satisfying.

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Budgett’s frog

Budgett’s frog, Lepdibatrachus laevis

Named after J. S. Budgett, who studied lungfish, bichers, and amhibians in South America and Africa over a hundred years ago, this unique frog could be said to resemble a cross between a hippopotamus and a potato. Even the tadpoles have enormous mouths and are cannibals, making their propagation difficult for amphibian keepers. They do not have teeth, but can inflict painful bites with sharp-edged structures in the jaws. Found in Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia, these relatives of the horned frogs were very rare in captivity before the 1980s.

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Green and black poison dart frog

Green and black poison dart frog, Dendrobates auratus

From Panama and Colombia, this is one of the most familiar of the poison dart frogs in collections, and is considered comparatively easy to keep and breed. It was introduced to the island of Oahu more than 50 years ago, and can be seen in front yards in suburbs of Honolulu. It continues to do well in its native habitat as well.

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Black-banded leporinus

Black-banded leporinus, Leporinus fasciatus

Growing to a foot in length, this eye-catching relative of tetras and piranhas is a typical inhabitant on flooded forests in South America. For more than 50 years it has been very popular in the pet trade. While having a reputation for harassing other fishes in home aquariums, it is not aggressive in roomy accommodations.

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Polka-dot stingray

Polka-dot stingray, Potomotrygon leopoldi

This species has a restricted range in South America, found only in the Xingu River Basin of Brazil, creating a concern that mining or other polluting activities could threaten it. Because of its striking pattern, it is highly valued for aquarium displays, and is now being captive bred around the world.

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Arrau turtle

Arrau turtle, Podocnemis expansa

This South American turtle is famous for the mass gatherings of females that come ashore to lay their eggs, often a hundred at a time. Otherwise, these plant-eaters hardly ever leave the water. Females are much larger than males, reaching a shell length of three feet. Because their eggs and flesh have long been prized as food, they have been subject to overhunting, and are now classified as Conservation Dependent.

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Spotted shovel-nose catfish

Spotted shovel-nose catfish, Pseudoplatystoma corruscans

The various shovel-nosed catfishes of South America are popular inhabitants of large aquariums and important food fishes in their native rivers. As their huge mouths would suggest, they are active predators, hunting for others fishes and crustaceans at night. They easily grow to over three feet.

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Fork-snouted catfish

Fork-snouted catfish, Oxydoras niger

No relation to sturgeons, this huge relative of the little “talking catfishes” (popular with aquarists) possesses similar looking bony scutes along its side, giving it a prehistoric appearance. One of its other aquarium shop names is in fact “Prehistoric catfish” and another is “Ripsaw”. Though exceeding three feet in length, they feed almost entirely on invertebrates and detritus, as one might deduce from their small mouths.

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Red-tailed catfish

Red-tailed catfish, Phractocephalus hemioliopterus

All of the many Red-tailed catfish at the DWA are donations from aquarists whose tanks they rapidly outgrew. Popular in the pet trade since the 1960s, this widespread South American fish is often sold at a length of two inches, but may eventually reach five feet and weigh over 100 pounds, potentially eating anything it can swallow.

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