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Rainforest animals that live in the rainforest layers

Updated February 21, 2017

Four distinct layers comprise the various tropical rainforests around the world, with different creatures living in each layer. The animals that occur in each layer possess certain sets of traits that allow them to survive. The top of the rainforest is a very different world from the bottom, with the wildlife reflecting this.

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Emergent layer animals

The uppermost layer of the rainforest is the emergent layer, an area characterised by some trees considerably taller than the rest in the rainforest. This area receives the full effects of any weather in the rainforest. Animals capable of flight are the main species found here, with various bats and a multitude of butterflies comprising many of them. The harpy eagle is a major predator of the rainforest; this raptor can weigh as much as 9.07 kg (20 lb) and can kill with its sharp long talons. The pygmy glider is another resident of the emergent layer, being a mammal so tiny that it can glide through the air by extending flaps of skin between its legs.

Canopy layer animals

The canopy layer is in effect an elaborate maze formed by branches and leaves marked by humidity and much less light than the emergent layer. This is the most populated layer of the rainforest. Innumerable species of birds, including the Toco toucan and the macaw live here, as do many kinds of monkeys. Howler monkeys, spider monkeys, gibbons and sakes use prehensile tails to aid in moving from limb to limb. Sloths hang from the branches, often staying in the same tree for very long periods. Insects are also extremely abundant in this layer.

Understory layer animals

The understory layer is below the canopy, consisting of the shorter and/or younger trees, long-stemmed plant species and various shrubs. In this layer, light is at a premium due to the canopy overhead blocking most of it out. Insects abound as well as spiders. Bats have the ability to fly more easily through this layer and they as well as birds will come to it to pursue bugs. Many kinds of amphibians such as tree frogs and salamanders live in the trees at this layer of the rainforest. Snakes such as the emerald tree boa and the Wagler's pit viper inhabit the branches. Predators such as jaguars and leopards will use the lower branches to launch attacks on passing prey.

Forest floor animals

The forest floor has a rich layer of decomposing plant and animal life, providing nutrients for millipedes, centipedes, termites, cockroaches, slugs, worms, beetles and like creatures. Mammals that feast upon them, including anteaters, armadillos and peccaries will live at this layer of the rainforest. Larger mammals of this layer include the Sumatran rhinoceros, a rare species of rhino that inhabits areas of the Malaysian and Indonesian rainforest biomes. Large snakes such as pythons and anacondas occur at this layer, as do large predators like tigers, jaguars and leopards.

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About the Author

John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.

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