Tropical rain forests are dense forests located close to the Equator on many continents. The biggest is the Amazon rain forest in South America. Rain forests have a high annual rainfall and are hot and humid. As the largest ecosystem on Earth, they are home to approximately half the animal species on the planet. Animals are found in each of the four layers of forest: the overstorey, the canopy, the understorey and the forest floor. Each level provides the perfect environment for different species to thrive.
There are more bats in a rain forest than any other kind of mammal. They play a vital role in the ecosystem, feeding on insects, distributing seeds and pollinating plants and flowers. The best known rain-forest mammals are the monkeys and apes, including orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees, which nest in the trees. Large cats such as tigers, leopards and jaguars roam the forest floor. Sleepy sloths live high in the canopy, feeding on leaves. Anteaters suck up ants and termites from the forest floor with their long snouts. Elephants and rhinos are among the largest animals found in rain forests, and mouse lemurs are the smallest.
A wide variety of birds live high in the canopy of the rain forest and swoop through the treetops, which reach up to 200 feet. Bright-colored parrots and toucans with their long, curved bills are the most widely known rain-forest birds. Sometimes birds are referred to as the "gardeners of the forest" because they eat fruit and disperse seeds through their dung. Birds like hornbills and quetzals also enjoy dining on lizards, insects and frogs.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Reptiles and amphibians are found in all the layers of the rain forest. Snakes like boa constrictors and pythons live in the trees and are well camouflaged among the leaves. Crocodiles lurk in the streams and creeks, and lizards and chameleons feast on bugs and insects. Bright-colored poison arrow frogs are found in Central and South America. They have poisons in their skin to protect them from predators.
Insects are the largest group of animals in the rain forest and are found in every one of its layers. Beetles make up around one quarter of the world's known animal species. Leafcutter ants march through the forest cutting off pieces of leaves with their strong jaws. Bright butterflies flutter through the trees. Milipedes clean up the forest floor, feeding on dead and decaying plant matter. Dung beetles recycle animal waste by using it as food.