More than half of the world’s plants, animals and insects live in the planet’s rainforests. Teeming with life, many rainforest animals have adapted to their environment by becoming strong, powerful or venomous hunters. Scientists believe rainforests are home to so many species of animals because they are the oldest ecosystem on earth, temperatures are constant at between 75 and 80 degrees and water is abundant. Some deadly rainforest animals include the big cats, venomous or constricting snakes, venomous spiders, and frogs and fish with razor-sharp teeth.
Found in the Southeast Asian rainforests, the Bengal tiger has been known to kill humans in extreme conditions. Although they general avoid people, sick or injured tigers, or those living in areas with little prey, may become man-eaters. They are strong and powerful animals that hunt for buffalo, wild pigs, deer and other large mammals at night. Using their striped coats as camouflage, they hide from their victims and pounce with a quick spring. They can eat up to 60 pounds (27kgs) in one night.
Living in South American rainforests, jaguars are powerful and fast cats. Their name comes from the Native American word yaguar, which means "he who kills with one leap," according to National Geographic. They use their swimming abilities to catch fish, turtles and caimans and their speed on land to hunt deer, peccaries, capybaras and tapirs. One of their hunting techniques is to pounce on their prey from a tree and kill with one crushing bite to the skull. Jaguars have made enemies of ranchers as they sometimes hunt their cattle. The cats are often killed in an effort to protect the livestock.
The green anaconda, found in the Amazon rainforest, is the largest snake in the world and can weigh over 550 pounds (250kgs). Its diet consists of wild pigs, deer, birds, turtles, capybara, caimans and can even kill a jaguar. This deadly snake has no venom, but kills by coiling around its prey and squeezing its powerful muscles to asphyxiate it. With their stretchy jaw ligaments, they can swallow their kill whole.
The Amazon rainforest coral snake is one of the most venomous snakes in the world. It is a beautiful brilliant red, yellow, and black and only comes out to hunt at night. Coral snakes have a pair of short fangs that they use to emit venom with a neurotoxic poison which paralyzes their prey, arresting their respiratory system and killing within seconds. It eats birds, lizards, amphibians and other snakes.
The fer de lance is found in rainforests from Venezuela through northern Argentina, including the Brazilian Amazon. It can grow up to 7 ½ feet (2.9m) long and its venomous bite contains twice as much venom needed to kill a human. This nocturnal snake eats small birds and rodents on the forest floor.
The Brazilian wandering spider, or banana spider, is a highly venomous spider found in tropical rainforests in South and Central America. It gets its name from its wandering habit as it does not spin webs and simply wait for its prey. The size of a small mouse, the spider’s venom is twice as potent as the Black Widow’s. Extremely fast and aggressive, these spiders eat crickets, other large insects, small lizards and mice.
Tarantulas are at home in the Amazon and Australian rainforests, and feed on frogs, mice and lizards. Tarantulas do not spin webs to ensnare their victims, but hide in burrows and grab their prey as they pass by. They inject a paralyzing venom from their fangs and then secrete a digestive enzyme that turns their prey into a liquid that they can suck up. As their venom is not deadly enough to harm people, they have become popular pets.
Frogs and Fish
The poison arrow frog produces the most powerful poison known by man and one frog’s poison can kill up to 100 people. Found in rainforests in Central and South America, these small, brightly colored frogs were prized by native hunters as a source of poison to use on the tips of their arrows. They can be yellow, blue, copper, red, green or black and their bright colors warn potential predators off. It is thought that the poison on their skins comes from plant poisons eaten by their prey, which includes ants, termites and beetles.
Piranhas, live in the Amazon River and have powerful jaws and triangular teeth that shred flesh from bones in seconds. Baby piranhas eat crustaceans, fruits, seeds and aquatic plants and soon move onto bigger fish which they eat alive. They have also been known to eat their own babies. The most aggressive species, the red-bellied piranha, will even eat cattle that stoop to drink in the river. Their teeth are razor-sharp and are used by indigenous people to make tools and weapons.
About the Author
A writer with over 30 years of experience, Elaine Davidson began her career as a journalist in 1980 at Canadian Press. Her feature articles have appeared in many Canadian newspapers including "The Calgary Herald." Davidson has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mount Allison University and a Master of Arts in journalism from University of Western Ontario.