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Mammals

Ecuador has over 350 documented species of mammals. Of these, there are over 130 bat species and almost 20 primates. Ecuador also boasts 30 endemic mammal species -- astounding given the relatively small size of the country.

Jaguar -- Panthera onca -- The largest cat in the New World, the jaguar measures from 1 to 1.8m (3 1/4-6 ft.) plus tail, and is distinguished by its tan/yellowish fur with black spots. Habitat destruction and hunting have placed the jaguar on the endangered-species list in Ecuador and throughout the Americas. Prime Viewing: Although they exist throughout much of Ecuador's lowlands, on both sides of the Andean cordillera, jaguars are extremely hard to see in the wild. Nocturnal and extremely well camouflaged, jaguars are most commonly found in the Amazon basin, as well as the rainforests of the north Pacific lowlands.

Ocelot -- Leopardus pardalis -- The tail of the tigrillo (little tiger, as it's called in Ecuador) is longer than its rear leg, which makes for easy identification. Although occasionally active during the daytime, ocelots are predominantly nocturnal. During the daytime they often sleep in trees. Prime Viewing: Lowland and midelevation forests throughout Ecuador, although most common in the Amazon basin.

Capybara -- Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris -- The capybara is the largest living rodent in the world. It can reach over 1.2m (4 ft.) in length and weigh as much as 60 kilograms (132 lb.). Capybaras are almost always found in or around water, often in large groups. Prime Viewing: Throughout the Amazon basin.

Paca -- Agouti paca -- Known as guanta in Ecuador, this rodent inhabits the forest floor, feeding on fallen fruit, leaves, and tubers dug from the ground. The paca is the second largest rodent in the New World (after the capybara). Prime Viewing: Most often found near water throughout many forest habitats of Ecuador, from river valleys to swamps to dense tropical forest. But because pacas are nocturnal, you're much more likely to see their smaller cousin, the diurnal black agouti or Dasyprocta fuliginosa.

Giant Otter -- Pteronura brasiliensis -- This endangered species is the largest otter species in the world and can reach up to 1.8m (6 ft.) in length, and weigh 34 kilograms (75 lb.). The fur is thick and soft and highly prized, contributing to the precarious status of this magnificent creature. Carnivorous, the giant otter feeds mainly on fish but will occasionally hunt caiman and snakes, including small anaconda. In Ecuador, the giant otter is sometimes called lobo del río (river wolf). Prime Viewing: In lakes, lagoons, rivers, and streams throughout the Amazon basin.

Brazilian Tapir -- Tapirus terrestris -- Known locally as danta or macho de monte, the tapir is the largest land mammal native to South America. Tapirs are active both day and night, foraging along riverbanks, streams, and forest clearings. Prime Viewing: Throughout the Amazon basin. A related sister species, the mountain tapir (Tapirus pinchaque), is slightly smaller and found in midelevation cloud forests and rainforests. Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii) is actually the largest of the tapir species, and can occasionally be found in the moist lowland forests of the Pacific coast.

South American Coatimundi -- Nasua nasua -- Primarily diurnal, this raccoonlike mammal is one of few with the ability to adapt to habitat disturbances and is often inquisitive around humans. Although mostly terrestrial, coatimundi sleep, mate, and give birth in trees. Unrelated females and their respective young often travel together in large packs, while males tend to be solitary. Prime Viewing: Lowland to midelevation forests throughout the Amazon basin. At higher elevations, you'll find mountain coatimundi (Nasuella olivacea).

Collared Peccary -- Tayassu tajacu -- Also called saino or chancho de monte, the collared peccary is a black or brown piglike animal, with a distinct white band or collar around its neck. It travels in small groups and has a strong musk odor. Prime Viewing: Lowland moist and dry forests on both sides of the Andes, and throughout the Amazon basin.

Giant Anteater -- Myrmecophaga tridactyla -- This species can reach 1.6m (5 1/4 ft.) in length. The giant anteater has a long, thin nose and long front claws, and is active both day and night. This anteater is terrestrial and its tail is not prehensile. Prime Viewing: Throughout the Amazon basin and the moist lowland forests of the Pacific coast.

Nine-Banded Armadillo -- Dasypus novemcinctus -- This is the most common armadillo species. Armadillo is Spanish for "little armored one," and that's an accurate description of this hard-carapace mammal. The nine-banded armadillo can reach 65 centimeters (26 in.) in length and weigh up to 4.5 kilograms (10 lb.). The female gives birth to identical quadruplets from one single egg. Prime Viewing: Lowlands and midelevations and along the Andean slopes, in both forests and clearings.

Kinkajou -- Potos flavus -- The nocturnal, tree-dwelling kinkajou has a long prehensile tail and looks a bit like a cross between a monkey and a weasel. Kinkajous average around 63 centimeters (25 in.) in length and can weigh between 6.6 to 18 kilograms (15-40 lb.). Prime Viewing: Strictly nocturnal and extremely hard to see in the wild, the kinkajou is found in lowland forests on both sides of the Andes.

White-Bellied Spider Monkey -- Ateles belzebuth -- This is a large monkey (64cm/25 in.) with dark brown fur on its back and lighter -- at times nearly pure white -- fur on its belly and limbs and over its eyes. One of the more acrobatic monkey species, the spider monkey is active both day and night, and travels in small to midsize bands or family groups. This species is particularly prized by Amazonian indigenous peoples for its meat. Prime Viewing: Found in the high canopy throughout the Amazon basin.

Mantled Howler Monkey -- Alouatta palliata -- The highly social mantled howler monkey grows to 56 centimeters (22 in.) in size and often travels in groups of 10 to 30. The loud roar of the male of this species can be heard as far as 1.6km (1 mile) away. Prime Viewing: Wet and dry forests along the entire length of Ecuador's Pacific coastal lowlands. Almost entirely arboreal, howler monkeys tend to favor the higher reaches of the canopy.

Squirrel Monkey -- Saimiri sciureus -- Active in the daytime, these frisky monkeys travel in small to midsize groups. Squirrel monkeys do have a prehensile tail as infants, but the tail loses this ability as they enter adulthood. The squirrel monkey is known locally as barizo. Prime Viewing: Lowland rainforests of the Amazon basin.

Three-Toed Sloth -- Bradypus variegatus -- The largest and most commonly sighted of Ecuador's sloth species, the three-toed sloth has long, coarse brown-to-gray fur and a distinctive eye band. They have three long and sharp claws on each foreleg. Except for brief periods during which they defecate, these slow-moving creatures are entirely arboreal. Prime Viewing: Lowland moist forests and rainforests on both sides of the Andean cordillera. While sloths can be found in a wide variety of trees, they are most commonly spotted in the relatively sparsely leaved cecropia.

False Vampire Bat -- Vampyrum spectrum -- The false vampire bat has an average body size of around 15 centimeters (6 in.) and an impressive wingspan that can reach a whopping 86 centimeters (34 in.), making it the largest bat in the Western Hemisphere. Although not surviving on blood, like a true vampire bat, this species is in fact carnivorous, feeding on other bats and small birds and rodents. Prime Viewing: Found in lowland to midelevation forests on both sides of the Andes and along Andean slopes.

Spectacled Bear -- Tremarctos ornatus -- This is the only bear species native to South America, and it is substantially smaller than its northern brethren, averaging 1.5 to 2.1m (5-6 3/4 ft.) in length. The spectacled bear is predominantly black with white patches on its chest and around its eyes, although the amount of white fur varies substantially from one bear to the next. Omnivorous, the spectacled bear eats everything from plants and fruits to carrion. Prime Viewing: Mid- to high-elevation Andean forests.

Andean Fox -- Dusicyon culpaeus -- Known locally as lobo del páramo (paramo wolf), this large fox is a member of the gray fox family. Prime Viewing: Found predominantly in the high Andean paramo up to 4,500m (14,764 ft.). A nocturnal hunter, these are best spotted at twilight.

Llama -- Lama glama -- Llamas are the largest of Ecuador's four camelid species -- the others being the alpaca, vicuña, and guanaco. Llamas have soft-padded, even-numbered toes and a three-chambered stomach. They are an essential part of the economy and daily life of highland Andean communities, providing meat, milk, and wool, as well as serving as pack animals. Prime Viewing: Found predominantly in the high Andean paramo, llamas are almost entirely domesticated or ranch herded in Ecuador. Reintroduced wild herds can be seen in Cotopaxi and Chimborazo national parks.

Amazonian Manatee -- Trichechus inunguis -- The Amazonian manatee is an entirely freshwater species. These "sea cows" are much smaller than their West Indian and West African brethren. The Amazonian manatee can reach lengths of 2.1 to 2.7m (6 3/4-8 3/4 ft.) and weigh up to 350 kilograms (772 lb.). The Amazonian manatee is mostly gray, with a prominent white or pink streak on its belly. Prime Viewing: Active both day and night, the manatee can be found throughout the Amazon basin. It prefers calmer lakes, lagoons, channels, and mangroves, although during the dry season, it will head to larger rivers and tributaries.

Amazon River Dolphin -- Inia geoffrensis -- Also known as the pink dolphin, or boto, this is the largest freshwater dolphin in the world. It reaches lengths of up to 2.6m (8 1/2 ft.), and weighs as much as 180 kilograms (397 lb.). The Amazon river dolphin can range in color from pink to dull gray and lacks the pronounced dorsal fin of its saltwater brethren. Prime Viewing: Throughout the Amazon basin.

Amphibians

Frogs, toads, and salamanders are actually some of the most beguiling, beautiful, and easy-to-spot residents of tropical forests. With over 450 recorded species, Ecuador is home to nearly 10% of the entire planet's amphibian species. Only Brazil and Colombia have more amphibian species, although species density is far greater in Ecuador.

Amazon Poison-Dart Frog -- Ranitomeya ventrimaculata -- This small diurnal frog can range from dark blue to black, with red- or yellow-striped markings. The markings become less defined and more greenish toward the rear legs of the Amazon poison-dart frog. Prime Viewing: On the ground, around tree roots, amid leaf litter, and under fallen logs in rainforests of the Amazon basin.

Ecuadorean Poison-Dart Frog -- Epipedobates bilinguis -- With prominent yellow markings on each limb and a granular texture to its back, this is a small to midsize member of the poison-dart family. Although not closely related, the Ecuadorian poison-dart frog is often confused with the ruby poison-dart frog (Epipedobates parvulus), which is very similar in appearance. Prime Viewing: On the ground, around tree roots, amid leaf litter, and under fallen logs in rainforests around the Río Napo and its surroundings, in the Amazon basin.

Fleischmann's Glass Frog -- Hyalinobatrachium fleischmanni -- This is a small lime-green frog with numerous pale yellow spots on its back. The belly of the Fleischmann's Glass Frog is transparent, allowing you to see the workings of internal organs, especially in captivity against a glass terrarium. Prime Viewing: This nocturnal frog can be found in forests along the western coast and Andean slope, up to 1,500m (4,921 ft.).

Marine Toad -- Bufo marinus -- The largest toad in the Americas, the 20-centimeter (8-in.) wart-covered marine toad is also known as sapo grande (giant toad). The females are mottled, the males uniformly brown. These voracious toads have been known to eat small mammals along with other toads, lizards, and just about any insect within range. They also have a very strong toxic-chemical-defense mechanism. Prime Viewing: This terrestrial frog can be found in lowland moist and dry forests on both coasts.

Smoky Jungle Frog -- Leptodactylus pentadactylus -- Also known as the South American Bullfrog, this bulbous brown frog can reach over 18 centimeters (7 in.) in length. The smoky jungle frog has prominent skin folds on its back and long, thin fingers that lack webbing. Prime Viewing: This nocturnal, terrestrial frog is abundant in lowland rainforests on the Pacific coast, and throughout the Amazon basin.

Reptiles

Ecuador has over 400 species of reptiles, ranging from the frightening and justly feared fer-de-lance pit viper to a wide variety of nonvenomous snakes, turtles, and lizards.

Boa Constrictor -- Boa constrictor -- Adult boa constrictors average about 1.8 to 3m (6-9 3/4 ft.) in length and weigh over 27 kilograms (60 lb.). Their coloration camouflages them, but look for patterns of cream, brown, gray, and black ovals and diamonds. Ecuador has numerous other boa species, including the Amazon tree boa and the beautiful rainbow boa. Prime Viewing: In lowland forests and mangroves on both sides of the Andean cordillera, up to about 1,000m (3,281 ft.). They also often live in rafters and eaves of homes in rural areas.

Fer-de-Lance -- Bothrops asper -- Known as equis (or "X") in Ecuador, the aggressive fer-de-lance can grow to 2.4m (8 ft.) in length. Beige, brown, or black triangles flank either side of the head, while the area under the head is a vivid yellow. Arboreal at the beginning of their life, these snakes become increasingly terrestrial as they grow older and larger. Prime Viewing: Countrywide up to 1,200m (3,937 ft.).

Anaconda -- Eunectes murinus -- This massive constrictor can weigh over 225 kilograms (496 lb.) and be more than 30 centimeters (12 in.) in diameter. Anacondas range in size from around 4 to nearly 10m (13-33 ft.), with females being much larger than males. Their skins are a beautiful olive green, with large oval black spots. Prime Viewing: In streams, lakes, rivers, and lagoons, throughout the Amazon basin. Forget the sensationalist namesake movie, the anaconda is one of the most amazing creatures of the tropical forest, and consider yourself lucky if you spot one.

Green Iguana -- Iguana iguana -- Green iguanas can vary in shades ranging from bright green to a dull grayish-green, with quite a bit of orange mixed in. The iguana will often perch on a branch overhanging a river and plunge into the water when threatened. Prime Viewing: All regions of the country, along rivers and streams up to 1,000m (3,281 ft.).

Basilisk -- Basiliscus vittatus -- The basilisk can run across the surface of water for short distances by using its hind legs and holding its body almost upright; thus, the reptile is also known as "the Jesus Christ lizard." Prime Viewing: In trees and rocks located near water in moist forests and rainforests along the western coast.

Marine Iguana -- Amblyrhynchus cristatus -- This unique reptile is the only marine iguana species on the planet. It can dive to depths of up to 15m (49 ft.) and can stay submerged for up to 30 minutes feeding on seaweed and marine algae. Darwin was unimpressed, if not downright revolted, by these creatures, calling them "imps of darkness." Prime Viewing: Widespread throughout the Galápagos Islands. Often found in large colonies basking on rocks to absorb the sun's heat.

Spectacled Caiman -- Caiman crocodilus -- This is the most common Crocodylia species in Ecuador. It can grow to a length of 2.4m (8 ft.), although the average spectacled caiman measures around 1.5 to 1.8m (5-6 ft.). Prime Viewing: In streams, lakes, rivers, and lagoons throughout the Amazon basin.

Galápagos Lava Lizard -- Tropidurus albemarlensis -- Lava lizards vary greatly in size and color, and various subspecies exist. In general, males are larger and more brightly colored than females. Most are between 10 and 15 centimeters (4-6 in.) in length, although specimens as large as 30 centimeters (12 in.) have been recorded. They are predominantly insectivores, but have been known to exhibit cannibalistic traits. Prime Viewing: Galápagos Islands, except for the northern outer islands of Wolf, Darwin, and Tower. Commonly found on arid volcanic stone and sandy areas.

Galápagos Tortoise -- Geochelone elephantopus nigrita/Geochelone hoodensis -- The giant Galápagos tortoises -- the largest in the world -- are iconic on their namesake archipelago. There are various subspecies, in two major groups, those with domed shells (Geochelone nigrita) and those with saddleback shells (Geochelone hoodensis). Adults of the larger species can weigh over 295 kilograms (650 lb.). Giant tortoises are estimated to have a life expectancy of 150 to 200 years. Prime Viewing: Galápagos Islands.

Invertebrates

Creepy crawlies, biting bugs, spiders, and the like give most folks chills. But this group -- made up, among others, of moths, butterflies, ants, beetles, and even crabs, includes some of the most fascinating and easily viewed fauna in Ecuador.

Blue Morpho -- Morpho peleides -- The large blue morpho butterfly, with a wingspan of up to 15 centimeters (6 in.), has brilliant, iridescent blue wings when opened. Fast and erratic fliers, these butterflies are often glimpsed flitting at the edges of your peripheral vision in dense forest. There are actually scores of morpho subspecies, with various color patterns and shadings. Prime Viewing: Low to midelevation forests countrywide, particularly in moist environments.

Leafcutter Ants -- Atta cephalotes -- You can't miss the miniature rainforest highways formed by the industrious little red leafcutter ants carrying their freshly cut payload to their massive underground nests. The ants do not actually eat the leaves, but instead feed off a fungus that grows on the decomposing leaves. Prime Viewing: In most low to midelevation forests countrywide.

Golden Silk Spider -- Nephila clavipes -- Often called a "banana spider," the common neotropical golden silk spider weaves meticulous webs that can be as much as .5m (1 3/4 ft.) across. The adult female of this species can reach 7.6 centimeters (3 in.) in length, including the legs, although the males are tiny. The silk of this spider is extremely strong and is being studied for industrial purposes. Prime Viewing: Lowland rainforests on the Pacific coast and throughout the Amazon basin.

Sally Lightfoot Crab -- Grapsus grapsus -- Also known as the red rock crab, the Sally Lightfoot crab is the most common crab found along the Pacific coast of Ecuador. It is a midsize crab whose colorful carapace can range from dark brown to deep red to bright yellow, with a wide variation in striations and spotting. Prime Viewing: On rocky outcroppings near the water's edge all along the Pacific coast and on the Galápagos Islands.

Sea Life

Ecuador has 2,237km (1,390 miles) of coastline, not including the Galápagos Islands, and some 6,720 sq. km (2,595 sq. miles) of territorial waters. These waters are home to a vast and abundant array of sea life.

Manta Ray -- Manta birostris -- Manta rays are the largest rays, with a wingspan that can reach 6m (20 ft.) and a body weight known to exceed 1,361 kilograms (3,000 lb.). Despite their daunting appearance, manta rays are quite gentle. If you are snorkeling or diving, watch for one of these extraordinary and graceful creatures. Prime Viewing: All along the Pacific coast and in the Galápagos Islands.

Whale Shark -- Rhincodon typus -- Although whale sharks grow to lengths of 14m (46 ft.) or more, their gentle nature makes swimming with them a special treat for divers and snorkelers. Prime Viewing: All along the Pacific coast and in the Galápagos Islands.

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark -- Sphyrna lewini -- One of the larger hammerhead species, the scalloped hammerhead shark can reach lengths of 4m (13 ft.), although most range from 2.4 to 3m (8 to 9 3/4 ft.). They get their name from distinct scallops located across the front of their signature hammer-shaped head. Prime Viewing: All along the Pacific coast and in the Galápagos Islands. Large schools of these sharks are commonly sighted while diving in the Galápagos, especially off the outer northern islands.

Humpbacked Whale -- Megaptera novaeangliae -- The migratory humpbacked whale frequents the waters off Ecuador's Pacific coast throughout the southern, or austral, summer season. Called ballena jorobada in Ecuador, humpbacked whales mate and calve in the warm waters here. These mammals have black backs and whitish throat and chest areas. They can reach lengths of nearly 18m (59 ft.) and weigh as much as 48,000 kilograms (105,821 lb.). Prime Viewing: All along the Pacific coast, particularly the central Pacific coast from Salinas up to Puerto López and Machalilla National Park, from June through September.

Pacific Green Turtle -- Chelonia mydas agassizii -- Also known as the black sea turtle, the Pacific green turtle is the only sea turtle to mate and nest on the Galápagos Islands. Prime Viewing: All along the Pacific coast, particularly in the Galápagos Islands.

Hawksbill Turtle -- Eretmochelys imbricata -- The hawksbill turtle is a shy tropical species that feeds primarily on sponges. Registered on the endangered species list, the turtle has a highly prized shell. Commercial exploitation and illegal hunting exacerbates the species' continued decline. Prime Viewing: All along the Pacific coast and in the Galápagos Islands.

Galápagos Sea Lion -- Zalophus californianus wollebacki -- Called lobo marino (sea wolf) in Spanish, this endemic species is plentiful throughout the Galápagos Islands and is seemingly fearless of humans. Large bull males are territorial, protecting a well-defined stretch of beach, which is usually populated by a large harem of females and their young. Males are much larger and have a pronounced bump on their forehead. It is not uncommon for snorkelers and scuba divers to have close encounters with Galápagos sea lions. Prime Viewing: Widespread throughout the Galápagos Islands. Occasionally found along the north Pacific coast of the mainland.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.