Tropical Rainforest: Animals
There are billions of species (kinds) of mammals, insects, birds and reptiles found in tropical rainforests. There are so many that there are many that have not been named or even identified yet.

Goodfellows tree kangaroo with young in tropical rainforests of Papua New Guinea

About half of all the world's animal species live in tropical rainforests, in all the layers of the forest. Different animals are found in different countries.

It is estimated that there are more than 50 million different kinds of insects alone in tropical rainforests. Almost 50 different species (kinds) of ant were found on one tree in Peru.

Tropical rainforests are almost perfect for animal survival. It is always warm, and there are no season changes bringing times when there is little food. There is shade from the heat and shelter from the rain. There is no shortage of water.

Tropical Rainforest: Animal Adaptations
Because there are so many creatures living in the rainforest, there is a great deal of competition for food, sunlight and space. Animals have developed special features in order to survive. This is called adaptation.

Some animals became very specialised. This means that they adapted to eating a specific plant or animal that few others eat. For example, parrots and toucans eat nuts, and developed big strong beaks to crack open the tough shells of Brazil nuts. Leafcutter ants climb tall trees and cut small pieces of leaves which they carry back to their nest.The leaf pieces they carry are about 50 times their weight.The ants bury the leaf pieces, and the combination of the leaves and the ants' saliva encourages the growth of a fungus, which is the only food these ants eat.

Sometimes there are relationships between animals and plants that benefit both. Some trees depend on animals to spread the seeds of their fruit to distant parts of the forest. Birds and mammals eat the fruits, and travel some distance before the seeds pass through their digestive systems in another part of the forest.

One problem with specialisation is that if one species becomes extinct, the other is in danger too unless it can adapt in time. One example is that of the dodo and the calvaria tree. The dodo, a flightless bird of Mauritius, became extinct in 1681. Today there are just 13 calvaria trees left on the island, each over 300 years old, and nearly at the end of their life. Scientists realised that the seeds had to pass through a dodo's digestive system before they could germinate (begin to grow). It seemed that the tree species would also become extinct, but scientists tried domestic turkeys and have successfully managed to germinate some seeds.

Many rainforest animals use camouflage to 'disappear' in the rainforest.

Stick insects (phasmids) are perfect examples of this. There are some butterflies whose wings look like leaves. Camouflage is of course useful for predators too, so that they can catch prey that hasn't seen them. The Boa Constrictor is an example of a camouflaged predator.

The South American three-toed sloth uses camouflage and amazing slowness to escape predators. Green algae grows in the sloth's fur, which helps camouflage it in the forest canopy. Sloths are among the slowest moving animals of all (inside too, as it takes about a month to digest food). They hang from branches in the canopy, and are so still that predators such as jaguars don't see them.

Some animals are poisonous, and use bright colors to warn predators to leave them alone. There are several species of brightly colored poison arrow frogs. Native Central and South American tribes used to wipe the ends of their arrows onto the frog's skin to make their arrows deadly poisonous.

A poison arrow frog in Costa Rica

Go here to find out more about animals of the world's rainforests. Remember that the rainforest animals of each country are different, so when you read about an animal, be sure to look at what country it's from:

If you use any part of this, acknowledge it in your bibliography like this:
Sydenham, S. & Thomas, R. Rainforest Biome [Online] (2002)

updated May 2010 ©kidcyber