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Animal Diversity in the RainForest

written by: Edna •edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 3/3/2009

There are distinct differences between the animals that live in temperate and tropical rainforests. Although tropical rainforests have incredible species diversity, temperate rainforests have less diversity but more animals.

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    Temperate rainforest animals

    A basic food chain in a temperate rainforest has primary producers and three levels of consumers. Primary producers are ferns, mosses and small plants.Mushrooms, flowers and grasses grow in the decomposing materials in the rich soil. The primary consumers are insects and small mammals like voles, chipmunks, mice, squirrels and birds. Salmon are also considered primary consumers because they feed on water organisms and insects that fall or hatch in mountain streams. Deer and elk also feed on a variety of grasses,ferns and small plants.

    Secondary consumers also live on the forest floor. Shrews and frogs help control the abundant insect population. Many birds live on a variety of insects and fruit; woodpeckers for example, have adapted to finding insects in the trees. Fox, hawks,weasel, racoons, and owls eat small animals like frogs, grass snakes, voles and chipmunks. Tertiary consumers, like wolves, lynx, bear and cougars, are the only animals strong enough to kill deer or elk.

    The food chain can be simpler or more complex like food webs. Wolves, lynx, cougar and bear also eat salmon; all the tertiary consumers can eat small animals like racoons or weasels, depending on their availability.

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    Tropical rainforest animals

    In a tropical rainforest primary producers live in the tree canopy, not the forest floor. In fact, canopy level and understory trees are a primary food source for the diverse groups of animals that live in a rainforest. Vines, epiphytes and large number of flowering plants also provide food for vast numbers of primary consumers like bats, parrots, insects, monkeys and small mammals. Insects make up the largest single group of animals that live in tropical forests and include brightly colored butterflies, mosquitoes, camouflaged stick insects, and huge colonies of ants.

    Secondary consumers include reptiles, carnivores, small predators and insectivores. Animals at this level include different frog species, small snakes, large insects and birds of prey like eagles and vultures. Tertiary consumers include large snakes like the boa constrictor, and jaguar.

    Other large animals such as the Indian elephant or African forest elephant, gorillas or orangutans, and tapirs tend to feed on vines, fruits, or insects. All animals -- mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians -- that live in the trees share similiar adaptations such as tails, wings,trunks or jumping abilities. Other characteristics are bright colors and sharp patterns, loud vocalizations, and diets heavy on fruit or insects.

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