Animals of the tropical rain forest...
Like an ocean, the rain forest shelters many creatures. In some way each of these creatures is interdependent on another for it's existance. In the rainforest there is tremendous biodiversity which ensures that any one species will not dominate. Instead animals have found thier own niches and specializations. Without this, the rainforest would cease to exist
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The spider, woolly and howler monkeys live in the crowns of the trees, this is in part due to their die. These monkeys are vegetarians, and leaves supply most of their protein requirement. Their home ranges are small, usually only extending from 2 to several square kilometers. Howler monkeys are a high protien treat for hungry harpy eagles.
The majority of the smaller primates are omnivores. Their protein is obtained by consuming small prey. They are able to do this because of their speed and agility. Specialization can be seen in the brown and white-fronted capuchins and the brown capuchins. For most of the year, they eat the same fruit and hunt for prey, but in the dry season when fruit is scarce, the brown capuchin eats palm nuts. The white-fronted capuchin is not able to open palm nuts easily, so they must travel long distances to look for fruit to eat. click on image for larger view
The smallest monkeys are even more specialized and diverse in their adaptations.
Some eat seeds, some figs, some insects and some fruit. Some are nocturnal. these animals live in the mature high forest and have an amazing ability to "cling and leap" from tree to tree.
Large cats of the rainforests include: Jaguars (in Central and South America; click of view for larger image...), Tigers (in Asia), Clouded Leopards (in Africa), Forest Leopards (in Africa), and Golden Cats (in Africa). Jaguars and leopards eat monkeys and pigs, and also play an important role by scavenging and hunting smaller prey if the opportunity arises.
Like many other creatures, large cats often must specialize in order to survive. Some of the smaler spotted cats, like Ocelots and Margays (in South America), and the Marbled Cat (of Southeast Asia), are good climbers. These cats hunt mice, small birds, and lizards up in the tree canopy.
There are also civets, genets, and linsangs, which are similar in body structure to mongooses. Although predatory cats serve a very useful purpose in tropical rainforests, they are often hunted for their furs and so are very scarce in numbers.
The jaguar is one of the most reclusive mammals in the world. Their skins are highly valued and their numbers have been reduced dramatically due to hunting. Jaguars and leopards enjoy a dinner of monkey, but will scavenge smaller, easier to catch prey.
There are a variety of species of birds in the rainforest. Most are bright in coloration, often used as a defense mechanism against predators. Many of the birds specialize in what foods they eat which helps limit competition for food. Changes in physiological characteristics, such as beak form, result from this specialization. Hummingbirds have long, thin, and curved beaks to reach down inside the slender, curved petals of such flowers as the Heliconia. (seen below)
Toucans, on the otherhand, have large beaks. They feed on fleshy fruits that are usually easily acessible, and therefore, thier beaks aren't specialized in harvesting the fruit but in opening and eating it.
Many animals of the rainforest specialize in defense mechanisms to defend themselves from predators. Often they use bright coloration such as red, blue, and yellow as a primary defense. The colors warn that the animal is poisonous and ussually wards off any kind of attack. The poison arrow frog along with other species are examples of such animals that use coloration as warning of toxicity Its' skin is one of the strongest poisons in the world, and is even used by Indigenous people for hunting. The tadpole stage is the most seceptible period of their lives. They are subject to predation even as thier parents carry them on thier backs, up trees to where the tadpoles will start the next stage of thier lives. As they grow into adults they continue to use coloration and poison as defense.
TRF History and Diversity, TRF Plant and strata, TRF Animals, TRF Ants, termites and bats. Soils & nutrient cycling