Tropical rainforests are dense forests located close to the Equator on many continents. The biggest is the Amazon rainforest in South America. Rainforests have a high annual rainfall and are hot and humid, and 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 overstory, the canopy, the understory and the forest floor. Each level provides the perfect environment for different species to thrive.
Mammals in Rainforest Habitat
There are more bats in a rainforest 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 rainforest 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. One of the most fascinating rainforest animals for kids may be the sleepy sloth, which lives high in the canopy and feeds 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 rainforests, and mouse lemurs are the smallest.
Birds in the Rainforest
A wide variety of birds live high in the canopy of the rainforest 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 rainforest 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 rainforest. 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 of the Rainforest
Here's another set of interesting rainforest facts for kids: Insects are the largest group of animals in the rainforest, and they're 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. Millipedes clean up the forest floor, feeding on dead and decaying plant matter. Dung beetles recycle animal waste by using it as food.
About the Author
Based in East Sussex, Caroline Repchuk has been writing and editing children's books and art and craft features since 1990. Her classic Christmas book, "The Snow Tree," is published by Dutton and her features have appeared in "Art Attack" and "SpongeBob SquarePants." Caroline holds a Bachelor of Arts in fine art from Leeds University.