Azteca ants, like several other ant species in the rain forest, are quite aggressive but do not inflict agonizing stings like their cousin the army ant. Living almost exclusively in cecropia trees located in the rainforests of Costa Rica, Peru and Venezuela, these insects thrive on protein-abundant secretions emitted from the bottom of the leaves. Azteca ants will protect their tree abode by attacking any other insects that happen to land on it and will even bite through and destroy vines and other plants that attempt to grow there. Most trees in the rainforest are covered with vines and other parasitic plant growths, but the azteca ant keeps the cecropia vine-free, allowing it and the ant colony to thrive.
Over the past several years, there has been much controversy over the future of the planet's rain forests. With ever impinging destruction of these natural habitats, rain forests now cover less than 7 percent of the planet's surface. According to many scientists, more than half of the plants and animals on earth live in these tropical areas and more stand to be discovered. Along with this myriad of plants and animals, are also some remarkable insect species.
Morpho butterflies are one the largest and most beautiful species of butterflies. They reside in the rainforests of Latin America. Displaying vibrant blue wings that appear to shimmer in the light, these butterflies are quite adept at avoiding predators with their agility and swiftness of flight. However, the morpho has another distinct asset that enables it to escape its would-be predator. Instead of the vibrant blue of the tops of its wings, this butterfly's underside is camouflaged to blend in with its surroundings. By simply closing its wings, the morpho seems to disappear into whatever tree or leave it has landed on.
Holding true to it's name, the sloth moth hides and lives in the fur of sloths. Sloths are 3- or 2-toed, clawed mammals with thick dense fur that live in the trees and canopies of the Central and South American rainforests. This moth reproduces when the sloth climbs down from his lofty habitat to "answer the call of nature". When the sloth is finished, mature moths emerge from his fur and deposit eggs in the fresh dung pile. After the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on nearby plants until they are grown, when they fly into the trees and find their own host sloth.
- Photo Credit rain forest image by Heng kong Chen from Fotolia.com Ant image by Mladenov from Fotolia.com butterfly image by Hubert from Fotolia.com
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