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A rainforest is a dense four layer jungle with a humid and hot climate that experiences a great amount of rainfall annually. Tropical rainforest covers only 6 percent of the world but it is estimated that nearly half of the planet’s plant and animal species live in the rainforests of Central America, Africa, Southern Asia and Australia. Mammals, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods, plants and birds are all common types of rainforest species. In addition to animal and plant biodiversity, many products like chocolate, sugar, cinnamon and pineapple are grown in rainforests.
Rainforests have dense canopy layers that prevent much light from reaching the forest floor. As a result, many plant rainforest species such as the epiphytes or air plants that live on the branches and trunks of trees have evolved including several tropical orchid species. Some fig plants will slowly strangle a host tree as it grows up toward the sun. Other plants such as the venus flytrap are carnivorous and will consume insects. Nepenthes rafflesiana, a pitcher plant common in Southeast Asia, can grow to more than 30 feet (9 meters) and produces 12-inch (30-centimeter) long pitchers that trap not only insects but small reptiles and mammals as well.
There are many large mammalian rainforest species. The gorilla inhabits Central Africa, eats fruit and bark and can weigh up to 400 pounds (181 kg) and stand 6 feet tall (1.8 m). Orangutans live in Indonesia, have a diet similar to that of the gorilla but are smaller, weighing up to 250 pounds (113 kg). In Southeast Asia, India and China roam bengal tigers that eat antelopes, monkeys, pigs and even elephants while the jaguar of Central America prefers turtles and deer. Capybaras can weigh up to 100 pounds (45 kg), are found in South America and are skilled swimmers that eat water plants and fruit.
Rainforest species also include amphibians and reptiles. The colorful poison dart and red-eyed tree frogs inhabit the regions of Central and South America and consume insects such as crickets and flies. Rainforest reptiles can be large, such as the anaconda of the Amazon River Basin that can be more than 37 feet long (11 meters). Anacondas will eat primarily rodents, birds, fish and turtles. Other common reptiles include the black caiman, boa constrictor, gaboon viper and reticulated python.
Many common rainforest species are birds or arthropods. The resplendent quetzal of Central America boasts a tail of red and blue feathers that is nearly 25 inches long (63.5 cm). Another brilliantly colored bird is the toucan that lives in hollow trees and eats fruit. The leafcutter ant has strong jaws for cutting leaves and grass used to grow the fungi it eats. While the leafcutter inhabits the forest floor, high in the canopy lives the brown winged blue morpho butterfly where it consumes rotten fruit. Additional rainforest arthropods are the praying mantis, giant water spider and paper wasp.
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