Animals That Live in the Equatorial Rainforest

Written by reannan raine
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Animals That Live in the Equatorial Rainforest
Parts of southern North America were at one time inhabited by this striking animal. (jaguar predator image by Pali A from Fotolia.com)

The equatorial rain forests are located predominately in lowland Amazonia, the Congo Basin, the Southeast Asian islands of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. It is estimated that 50 per cent of all life on this planet resides in the rain forest, including the 5 to 50 million different species of animals that live there and depend on the rich vegetation and other animal life for their very survival.

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Jaguars

Jaguars (panthera onca) are the biggest of the big cats in the western hemisphere, with mature males weighing in at 55.3kg. and mature females at 36.3kg. Their intricately patterned coats are shades of gold and buff with spots of darker golden colour within a black outline, elongated black splotches and areas with a white background along their cheeks and muzzle. Its native habitat extends beyond the equatorial rain forest to Mexico and into northern Argentina. The jaguar is larger than the African leopard with a broader head, shorter, stockier legs and a longer tail. Ungulates (a type of deer), peccaries, which are piglike creatures, caimans, fish, reptiles and birds are all on the menu for jaguars, whose only predators are humans.

Sloth

Two-toed (choloepus hoffmanni) and three-toed (bradypus variegatus) sloths live in the trees in the Amazon rain forest, descending to the ground only once every five to seven days to urinate, defecate and occasionally change trees for a different food source. They do everything while hanging upside down in the trees---eating, sleeping, mating and even giving birth there. The liver, stomach, spleen and pancreas of these animals have been repositioned over the centuries to better function in an upside-down position. Tree sloths weigh between 4.08 and 9.07kg. and are typically 21 to 29 inches long. They are extremely slow animals that have tan to grey/brown shaggy fur with fine layers of undercoat. Algae grows on their fur and is utilised by the sloth for nutrition and camouflage. The nutrients from the algae are absorbed through their skin and the blue-green tint helps them blend in with the rain forest canopy. The majority of the sloth's diet consists of tree foliage but they occasionally enhance it with bird eggs and hatchlings, lizards, insects and carrion.

Pygmy Elephant

The African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) is also referred to as the pygmy elephant. It lives in the equatorial rain forest of central and western Africa. They are quite a bit smaller than the savannah elephant, reaching heights of only 8 feet at the shoulder, with a stockier stature. Their ears are rounded and their pinkish ivory tusks are straight, making it easier for them to walk through the forest without catching them on the thick vegetation. The longer lower jaw of the pygmy elephant gives its face a longer, more narrow appearance than the savannah elephants. They are also darker in colour. The diet of the pygmy elephant is made up of herbs, trees and shrub foliage.

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