Rainforests harbor more species diversity than any other habitat on Earth, including many mammal species. Mammals play a wide range of roles within the rainforest food chain. From humble marsupials foraging on the forest floor in Australia to the mighty Bengal tiger in Asia, each rainforest has its own mammals that help define its ecosystem.
South and Central American Rainforests
More than 400 mammal species can be found in the Amazon rainforest alone. One unusual Amazonian mammal is the capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), which is classified as the largest rodent in the world, reaching 4 feet in length and weighing as much as 100 pounds. The jaguar (Panthera onca) is one of the rainforest's top predators. Many Central and South American mammals live an arboreal life. Several spider monkey species live in these forests, as well as the kinkajou (Potos flavus), a small, fuzzy animal with a long tail and gripping back feet, and sloths, which can be found hanging from tree limbs and sluggishly gobbling down handfuls of leaves. Although not what you'd usually think of as a rainforest animal, the pink dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) can be seen swimming in Amazonian rivers.
Africa boasts beautiful rainforests full of fauna on both its mainland and the island of Madagascar. Chimpanzees and gorillas are some of the best-known mammals found in continental African rainforests. The okapi (Okapia johnstoni) is a donkey-sized hooved mammal with brown fur on its body and black-and-white stripes on its haunches. Forest elephants (Loxodonta africana) are the biggest mammal in the African rainforest but are much smaller than savannah elephants. African forests are home to many bats, like the flying fox, whose 2-foot wingspan makes it look scary, but it's a harmless herbivore that feeds only on fruit. Pygmy hippopotami (Choeropsis liberiensis) are like mini-tanks, measuring only 5 feet long but weighing 418 pounds. The Madagascan forests are home to many more unique mammals. Several kinds of lemur can be found on this island and nowhere else, including the ring-tailed lemur, red-ruffed lemur and dwarf lemur. The fossa and fanaloka are two cat-like predators related to the mongoose that only exist on this tropical island.
The Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris) inhabits rainforests of southern Asian countries including India, China, Bangladesh and Indonesia. These tigers eat many other mammals that share the forest with them, including antelopes, boars, monkeys, pigs and even elephants. Asian rainforests are home to many primates, including many gibbon species, orangutans and the funny-looking proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus), with its extra-large nose. The common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) is like the squirrel of Indonesia, thriving in rainforests as well as agricultural and even urban areas. The Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is the smallest known rhinoceros at 8 feet long and weighing 2,200 to 4,400 pounds. They also stand out because they're covered in scruffy fur and are the only Asian rhinos with two horns.
Many kangaroo species have adapted to life in the continent's rainforests, including the red-legged pademelon (Thylogale stigmatica), musky rat kangaroo (Hypsiprymnodon moschatus) and Lumholtz tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus lumholtzi). Australia is home to an extremely rare kind of mammal -- the egg-layers, or monotremes. These include the platypus (Ormithorhynchus anatinus) and various species of echidna, which resemble hedgehogs -- covered in spines with long, thin snouts. Several possum species inhabit Australia's treetops, including the sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps), which has become a popular exotic pet outside its natural habitat. Bandicoots, the giant white-tailed uromys (Uromys caudimaculatus), and the yellow-footed antechinus (Antechinus flavipes) are carnivorous marsupials that call the Australian tropics home.
- Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges: Rainforest Mammals
- Animals of the Rainforest: African Rainforest Animals
- WildMadagascar.org: The Real Animals of Madagascar
- PBS -- Africa -- Explore the Regions: Rainforest
- Rainforest Animals: Rainforest Guide
- Blue Planet Biomes: Rainforest Animals
- Blue Planet Biomes: Southeast Asian Rainforest Animals
- WWF: Amazon Mammals
About the Author
Madeline Masters works as a dog walker and professional writer. In the past she has worked as a fitness columnist, fundraising copywriter and news reporter. Masters won two Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Awards in 2009. She graduated from Elizabethtown College with a Bachelor of Arts in English.
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