written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 5/24/2011
Are you interested in learning about the tropical rainforest? If so, read on to learn more about tropical rainforest climate, plants, animals, and people.
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Learning all about the tropical rainforest includes learning more about the plants, animals, people, and climate that together, create these spectacular environments. Due to the destruction of the Earth's rainforests, they now only cover less than six percent of the land surface on Earth. Amazingly enough, however, more than half of the animals and plants in the world are estimated to live in tropical rainforests. In addition, more than 40 percent of the oxygen on Earth is produced by tropical rainforests.
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Tropical Rainforest Climate
Tropical rainforests are a part of the tropical wet climate group. The annual average rainfall within this type of rainforest is 50 to 260 inches, but is often more than 100 inches. The temperature ranges between 68 degrees Fahrenheit and 93 degrees Fahrenheit. These rainforests are also vary humid averaging between 77 percent and 88 percent humidity.
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Tropical Rainforest Animals and Insects
There are several different types of mammals that live in tropical rainforests ranging from very small to very large. The most well-known mammals are the larger mammals, such as tigers, leopards, jaguars, apes, and monkeys. However, most of the mammals in this type of rainforest are small, as well as nocturnal, and include several different species of rodents and bats, such as different types of mice, lemurs, and squirrels.
Tigers are possibly the most dangerous big cat in the world and it is also the biggest. It is native to southern and eastern Asia. They can weigh as much as 660 pounds and reach eleven feet long. This endangered cat can be found in a variety of areas including the tropical mangrove swamps.
Apes are an endangered species mostly due to the loss of their tropical rainforest habitat. There are several different apes and they all eat plants and insects. They are generally peaceful and quiet, but are also quite large . The males can reach 400 pounds and six feet tall, and the females can reach 200 pounds and five feet tall.
Parrots are well-known birds that inhabit tropical rainforests. Their main feather color is green, but it is accompanied by several other bright colors, such as orange, red, blue, and yellow. They vary greatly in size. Their diet consists of seeds, fruit, nuts, flower buds, and other plant parts and material.
Vultures are birds of prey and scavengers. They feed on dead animal carcases, but will sometimes kill an animal that is sick or wounded and eat them. Two of their most dominant characteristics is that they are devoid of feathers and they have a bald head.
Reptiles and amphibians are also very abundant in tropical rainforests. Some of the most well-known include snakes, tortoises, crocodiles, turtles, lizards, toads, newts, frogs, salamanders, and caecilians.
Crocodiles can be found in the tropical rainforest and other tropical areas of Asia, Australia, Africa, and the Americas. They often congregate in freshwater habitats, such as lakes, wetlands, rivers, and in some cases, brackish water. They most often feed on fish, mammals, and reptiles, but may also feed on mollusks and crustaceans. Crocodiles vary greatly in size from anywhere between three feet to 16 feet in length and up to 2,600 pounds.
The insects in tropical rainforests range from small to rather large and from dangerous to non-dangerous. Some of the most well-known include several different butterflies, leaf insect, moths, several different types of beetles, and several different types of caterpillars.
Tropical rainforest butterflies are crucial to the rainforest because they pollinate the flowers and feed on nectar. These butterflies tend to be bigger than your typical garden butterfly and come in a large variety of colors. In the Amazon rainforest, some of the butterflies have transparent wings. Up to 150 different species of butterfly can be found within just eight square kilometers.
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Tropical Rainforest Plants
There are more than 40,000 different species of plants found in tropical rainforests, including primary producers. These plants are used for a variety of things, such as by the animals and insects, and people for survival, and to make traditional medications. Some of the most well-known plants of tropical rainforests include orchids, bromeliads, Bengal bamboo, the Kapok tree, jambu, strangler figs, bougainvillea, curare, durian, tualang, mangrove forests, and the coconut tree.
Mangrove Forests: These forests, also referred to as mangals, consist of shrubs and trees that grow along tropical coastlines. Fifteen percent of the mangals in the world are found in Brazil.
Bougainvillea: This tropical flowering plant is usually pest-free and is native to South America. The main flower is usually white and small, but it then surrounded by three to six bracts comprised of bright colors, such as magenta, red, white, pink, purple, orange, or yellow.
Strangler Figs: This tropical tree is a common sight in tropical rainforests and there are approximately 1,000 different species. This canopy tree is tall and can reach 148 feet high. They begin as seedlings on a tree's branches or crook then they grow quickly into vine-like roots which dangle as aerial roots or snake down the trunk. As the roots grow and spread, they squeeze their host tree's trunk to a point that its flow of nutrients gets cut off.
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People of the Tropical Rainforests
When learning all about the tropical rainforest it is important to learn about the people who inhabit them and live around them. The Amazon rainforest supports the biggest populations. Some of the most well-known people who live in tropical rainforests include the pygmies (Africa) and the kaiapo Indians (Amazon rainforest, Brazil). The pygmies are forest dwellers who have intimate knowledge of the plants, animals, and rainforest. In order to eat, they hunt antelopes, monkeys, pigs, and fish. They also gather wild yams, honey, berries, and other plants. They believe that the rainforest is their god and that it will protect them and provide them what they need. The Kayapo participate in many modern world activities, such as the lumber and mining industry, and using a cash economy. This group is a highly ecologically evolved group and they use biological pesticides to cultivate several plants.
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Blue Planet Biomes. (2001). Tropical Rainforest. Retrieved on May 9, 2010 from Blue Planet Biomes: http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/rainforest.htm
Mongabay. (2008). Tropical Rainforests. Retrieved on May 9, 2010 from Mongabay: http://kids.mongabay.com/
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Daintree National Park Tropical Rainforest: Diliff – Wikimedia Commons