It’s a jungle out there, and in this year’s World Cup, footballers are
jockeying for a seat at the top of the food chain. While some bring
brute strength to the table, others have adapted with speed and
cunning. For these athletes, it’s survival of the fittest—just like in
To celebrate the 2014 World Cup, we’ve created a list of footballers
I Got the Moves Like Jaguar
Junior Diaz is the World Cup’s fastest player with a 22 mile-per-hour
sprint. The Costa Rican defender played in five matches and ran about
35 miles on the field in this tournament as of Tuesday.
Still, Diaz is no match for the jaguar, which can run about twice that
fast. These formidable beasts are the largest cats in the Americas, and they have an appetite
to match. Jaguars eat large mammals like deer, peccaries and tapirs.
They also snack on birds, turtles and fish. (Want to get up close and
personal without getting too close? Check out our wildlife photography
In ancient Native American cultures, jaguars were thought to be gods
of the underworld. This myth persisted widely until the Mayan empire fell. Just like the
Costa Rican team recently fell. Too soon?
Suarez Bites Like the Bullet Ant
|Bullet ant (Photo credit: ggallice)|
These nasty denizens of the rainforest floor can both bite and sting,
injecting victims with a powerful neurotoxin that causes muscle
contractions and a burning sensation. They’re dubbed “bullet” because
being attacked by one feels like getting shot. (See also “Top 5 Strangest Rainforest Animals”)
Luis Suarez may not look like a bullet ant, but his bite is just as
potent. Nicknamed “The Cannibal,” Suarez was suspended last month for
biting another player during a game. The Uruguayan midfielder leaned
over mid-play and clamped his pearly whites on Germany’s Giorgio
In the Amazon, bullet ants are traditionally used during local
coming-of-age ceremonies, where young men have to endure multiple
bites and stings to secure a place within the community. And while
Suarez’s bite might not pack the same punch as a bullet ant, it could
have serious health implications. The human mouth contains hundreds of
strains of bacteria—some of which don’t hurt their hosts but can be
fatal to others.
The Naked Truth About Croatian Footballers
The Croatian football team caused a stir when photos of them relaxing
naked by their hotel pool circulated the Internet. Two
photographers hid in the bushes while the squad lounged in the buff
and quickly sold the resulting photos to media outlets. Angry that
their privacy had been violated, the team refused to give interviews
to World Cup reporters.
Luckily, the Peruvian hairless dog is much less self-conscious about
its nudity—its picture adorns artifacts from the Moche, Inca, Chancay
and Chimu peoples. The ancient breed is affectionately called the
“Peruvian Inca Orchid.” Prized for its heat-radiating skin, many
locals prefer cuddling with their canines to hot compresses or heating
pads. (You can cuddle up in one of our rainforest villas.)
These bald dogs get flack in a society accustomed to fuzzy pooches.
Peruvian hairless dogs are often strong contenders for the World’s
Ugliest Dog competition. Do their human counterparts on the Croatian team match suit? You’ll have to decide
Tim Howard and the Poison Dart Frog
|English: Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates auratus) at the Louisville Zoo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The U.S. goalie Tim Howard wears a bright green jersey that reminds us
of a poison dart frog. These gorgeous creatures come in many different
colors besides green, dotting the rainforest with splashes of gold,
copper, blue and red. Their bright coloration is a warning that tells
predators to back off—or suffer the toxic consequences. Poison dart
frogs ooze poison from their skin that can maim or even kill their
attackers. (If looks could kill… These exotic amphibians would slay
There are several species of poison dart frog that carry their eggs
and tadpoles around on their backs—just like Howard carried the U.S.
team through the country’s first two matches. During the U.S. versus
Belgium game, Howard made 16 saves—the most ever recorded during a
World Cup game.
Want to see more jungle animals? Check out our tours of the Amazon with Rainforest Expeditions.