Amazon Facts

The Amazon is considered by many to be the greatest river in the world. It is certainly the largest, volume-wise, discharging a quarter of the world's fresh, free-flowing water (i.e. not locked up in polar ice or otherwise glaciated) into the Atlantic at a rate of 28 billion gallons of water per minute. Its tributary, the Rio Negro, is the third largest river in the world. The Amazon, at approximately 4,000 miles (6700km), is second only to the Nile in length. Seasonal water levels can vary as much as 65 feet (20 km). The Amazon originally flowed into the Pacific (which lies a mere 120 miles from its headwaters), but the river's course was permanently altered some 65 million years ago when the South American plate, heading westward, collided headlong into the eastward-moving Nazca plate, giving birth to the Andes mountains.

The Amazon is home to over a million species, and it is believed there are many yet to be discovered. The list includes monkeys, jaguars, tapirs, fresh-water dolphins, manatees and an estimated 5,000 species of fish.

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