The animals of the tropical rainforest are among the most fascinating and intriguing wildlife. These unique habitats are essential ecosystems with a massive biodiversity. It is thought that many millions of species remain undiscovered, and even with that, as many as 50-70% of all known species are indigenous to the rainforests. Here are some animals of the tropical rainforest you may or may not know about.
The jaguar is the third largest species of cat in the world behind the tiger and the lion. It is perfectly adapted to be one of the most amazing animals of the tropical rainforest but sadly, it is one of the species under threat, having been ruthlessly hunted in the 1960s and '70s for their stunning fur coats. Unlike most feline species, jaguars love the water. Jaguars are the apex of the food chain in their home range, which are the rainforests of Central and South America.
Black and furry, the siamang is an ape that is native to the rainforests of South East Asia. They are actually the world’s largest species of gibbon. They have a very distinguishing feature of a balloon-like throat pouch, which inflates and deflates as they make their loud whooping calls. Like other primates, the calls are a unique language and help establish territories among rival groups.
Like a cute cartoon animal, the okapi seems to be a mixed up deer, giraffe, zebra and antelope. Actually, their closest relative is the giraffe. The okapi lives in the Central African rainforests, where they love using their long tongues to graze on leaves, grass and fruit. Interestingly, their tongue is so long it can be used to wash out their ears.
The mata mata is one of the most unusual animals of the rainforest. It is in fact a turtle, but differs from other turtles thanks to its flattened, triangular-shaped head and bark-like carapace. There are also flaps of skin that hang from the mata mata’s head and neck, which is uncharacteristic of other turtle species. The mata mata is a freshwater turtle found mainly in the South American rainforests, most particularly in the Amazon and Orinoco River basins.
Like many other birds of the rainforest, the cassowary is brightly-colored. Unlike many others, though, the cassowary is flightless. Another unusual feature is that, whereas in the bird kingdom it is usually the male that is brightly colored and showy, it is the female cassowary who sports the fancy plumage. The cassowary lives in the rainforests of North East Australia and New Guinea and it is the third largest bird in the world behind the ostrich and emu.
The capybara is the world’s largest rodent and is a relative of the guinea pig. They are semi-aquatic, have semi-webbed feet and prefer to make their home close to the rivers that run through the rainforests of South America. Capybaras are herbivores and grow to the size of a small pig.
Bugs are the most numerous animals of the rainforest, irrespective of where the rainforest is located. It is also thought that thousands upon thousands of species of bugs that live in the rainforests have not yet been discovered. Scary thought! Anyway, I quite like the leafcutter ant. The way it uses its formidable jaws to cut pieces of foliage is fascinating. And they don’t actually eat this. They carry the bits of leaf back to their nest, where it is composted to produce a fungus which is then eaten.
I think my favorite animals of the rainforest are the various primates and butterflies. What are yours?
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