Rainforests cover only about 6% of the planet's surface, yet more than 50% of the world's plant and animal species live in them. Most of the animals live high above the forest floor for most of their lives. Rainforests exist in Central America, the Amazon in South America, the Madagascar and Congo River Basin in Africa and in Southeast Asia. There is a temperate rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington that extends into British Columbia. Most of the animals in the rainforest live in the emergent, canopy or understory layers of the forest.
Poison-arrow frogs inhabit the Central and South American rainforests. The frogs' whole bodies are less than one inch long. They have a radiant red, yellow or blue coloration that prevents predators from getting too close by letting them know poison is in store. One frog carries enough poison to kill up to 100 people. The indigenous people in the South and Central American rainforests use small amounts of the frog poison on the tip of their hunting arrows, hence its name. The frogs typically will not attack anyone unless directly provoked. Unlike most frogs, the poison-arrow frog carries its tadpoles on its back to a safe place on a bromeliad leaf and then feeds it insects and infertile eggs.
The spider monkey is in the Cebidae or new world monkey family that inhabits the rainforests of South and Central America. They have less developed brains than their African, Asian and Australian primate counterparts and they lack opposable thumbs. Spider monkeys rarely, if ever, descend from the upper canopy down to the forest floor. They have long tails with powerful muscles used for grasping tree branches and vines as well as helping them balance when walking upright. The monkeys live in loose-knit groups of 30 or so individuals that break up into hunting and gathering parties of four or fewer monkeys. Spider monkeys eat mostly fruits and seeds along with the occasional bird egg, insects and various plant matter. They live to about 27 years old.
Toucans are bright yellow and black birds with huge vivid yellow, green, black, brown, blue, white and/or red bills. Forty different kinds of toucans have been identified in the rainforests of South and Central America. The birds use their sharp bills to saw open or crush fruits they eat. Toucans also eat lizards and other smaller birds. They live in holes in tall rainforest trees in pairs or flocks. The bird's bright colors let toucans of the opposite sex know that a mate is waiting.
- Photo Credit Parrot Eating Banana image by Towards Ithaca from Fotolia.com Poisonous frog, Ronario Frog Pond, Costa Rica image by Oren Sarid from Fotolia.com monkey on monkey bars image by Photoeyes from Fotolia.com toucan image by nathalie diaz from Fotolia.com
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