Animals in the Tropical Rainforest

Updated April 11, 2017

A tropical rainforest is defined by being generally within 28 degrees north or south of the equator in Asia, Australia, Africa, South America, Central America, Mexico and the Pacific Islands. Rainforests are defined by warm temperatures and steady rainfall of up to 69 inches a year. Rainforests are home to half of all living things on the planet, including more species than all the other biomes of the Earth put together. In addition, 80 per cent of the diversity of life is found within rainforests.


Insects have an exoskeleton, a three-part body and six legs. They evolved during the Silurian Period, 438 to 408 million years ago, long before dinosaurs existed. Insects are the most numerous animals in rainforests. There are caterpillars, dragonflies, ants and numerous species of butterflies living in tropical rainforests. Insect species are so numerous in the tropical rainforest that the biome has its own species of predator. Native to the tropical rainforest is the assassin bug--an insect that preys on other insects.


Birds are a subsection of reptiles, having a common skeletal structure that came from a common ancestor, the dinosaur. Rainforests house such rare and beautiful birds as the quetzal, the cuckoo and the toucan. The quetzal gets its name from the Mexican god Quetzalcoatl, a bird god with colourful feathers. A quetzal is a beautiful rainforest bird with very long tail feathers. The cuckoo gets its name from the sound it makes. Cuckoos live in the highest levels of the trees of the rainforest, known as the canopy. The toucan is a world-famous tropical bird with a long, colourful beak.

Reptiles and Amphibians

The name reptile means "to creep." Reptiles have scales, breathe air and lay eggs. Types of reptiles living in tropical rainforests are turtles, lizards, snakes, iguanas, and alligators and crocodiles. In the New Guinea and North Australian rainforest the caped lizard or chlamydosaurus has a foot-wide, brightly coloured frill of skin encircling its head, used to frighten predators. Amphibians are animals that can live both in and out of water, like frogs. Tropical rainforests are home to many species of frogs and toads.

Primates and Rodents

Although humans have never been able to live in the rainforest because the habitat does not support our needs, there are other four- and two-legged mammals living in tropical rainforests. Wildcats like ocelots, servals and jaguars thrive in the rainforest, as do rodents like capybara and sloths. Tropical rainforests are also home to bonobos, chimpanzees, monkeys, orang-utans, gibbons, gorillas and both lesser and greater apes. Tropical rainforest are also home to the unusual tarsier, a mammal with extraordinarily large eyes.

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