Welcome to the rainforest.
Today, we are going to go deep inside the
rainforest and learn about some of the amazing
creatures that live there.
But first, we need to make sure we all know
exactly what a rainforest is.
As you can guess, rainforests can be very wet places.
A rainforest may receive from 400 to 1000
centimetres of rain each year.
By comparison, Toronto receives
500 cm about 75 centimetres of rain
0 cm 0 cm
Rainforests are also warm places. The temperature
stays between 25 – 30 Celsius all year.
Now you know that rainforests are wet and warm.
The rainforest makes a wonderful home for many
different kinds of animals because they all need water
It is also easier for animals to survive where it is warm
Rainforests can be divided into three layers.
The top layer is made up of the tops of all the
rainforest trees. This layer is called the canopy.
This part of the rainforest receives the most amount
of sunlight and rain. Trees and plants need this
sunlight and water to grow.
The layer below the canopy is called the understorey
Notice that there is not a lot of light here. The
leaves in the canopy stop most of the sunlight.
Many animals call the understorey their home.
If we move even further below the canopy and below
the understorey, we will reach the forest floor.
Very few plants actually grow at this level because it
is too dark. The forest floor is mostly covered in
The dead plant and animal matter on the forest floor
breaks down in a process called decomposition.
The nutrients from the decomposing plants and
animals are important to the living plants in the
When you think about where you live - or where an
animal lives – and what you need – or what that animal
needs – to survive, you are looking at what scientists
call a habitat.
The rainforest provides a habitat for many living
things. Your habitat is your home and your
neighbourhood, because you can find everything you
need to survive right there.
This howler monkey’s habitat includes trees for it to
climb in, leaves and fruits for it to eat, water for it
to drink, and predators like the jaguar to avoid!
Jaguars require a large habitat, but some animals
may be able to get everything that they need under a
single rotting log.
In a habitat there are many different
plants and animals that make up what is
called a community of living things.
An ecosystem is made up of that
community plus the non-living things
found around it.
Soil, water, rocks, and air are
all non-living parts of an
All living things are
connected to each other,
including humans. It is
like a web.
In any food web, there are more herbivores (or
plant-eaters) than there are carnivores (or
meat-eaters). This iguana is a herbivore.
There are also many more plants than there are plant-
eaters. And, there are more small animals than large
Insects, such as this rhinoceros beetle, are the most
numerous animals in rainforests.
Plants and animals are important to
each other in all kinds of
For instance, this capuchin monkey drinks
nectar from flowers in trees. In the
process, the monkey gets pollen on its face
and pollinates the flowers.
Let’s look at the case of the bromeliad to explore
this idea further. A bromeliad is a tropical plant in
the pineapple family.
Some bromeliads are brightly coloured and live on
the branches and trunks of rainforest trees. They
have a remarkable way of getting water and food.
Their long, curved leaves overlap at the base, forming
a tight little bowl, creating a perfect water tank! The
leaves act as gutters to collect rain, and the tank
holds the water.
Scientists have found more than 250 different animal
species in the tanks of bromeliads, including frogs and
tadpoles, insects and insect larvae, spiders, and
One animal that depends
on the bromeliad is the
The life cycle of
frog has a few
For one thing,
this frog lays its
eggs on land.
deposits a few
eggs in a cluster
of jelly under a
leaf or in a small
burrow in the
After the male
the eggs, he
Then the tiny tadpoles wiggle onto their mother's back,
so that she can carry them to a water-filled bromeliad
that she has chosen for their home.
The poison-arrow frog drops each tadpoles in a
separate tiny pool of rainwater in the bromeliad.
The tadpoles feed on algae and mosquito larvae. To be
sure they have food, the female frog returns again
and again to deposit a single unfertilized egg in the
water for each tadpole to eat.
After six to eight weeks, the tadpoles emerge as
frogs and return to the forest floor.
You have learned a lot about rainforests and the
animals that live there.
The rainforest is an important home for millions of
species of plants and animals and they are an
important part of our Earth.
We are quickly learning that
when we remove anything in
nature, something else is
affected. One disappearing
plant can take with it up to 30
other plant or animal species.
Today, we are in a position to destroy or preserve
our rainforests. Species depend on each other in a
complicated web of relationships, changing just one
part of that web harms the entire ecosystem.
As people destroy or significantly change the
rainforests, certain species die out, and as they go
extinct, other species die out too.
This breakdown of rainforest ecosystems will likely
lead to the extinction of up to 10% of the world's
species within the next 25 years unless we act now
and stop it.
Many medicines that we regularly use come from
rainforest species. With such a vast number of
species still undiscovered, the rainforests likely
hold important ingredients with which to fight
The rosy periwinkle flower, found in Madagascar,
has been successfully used to treat several forms
of cancer and a newly discovered vine in Africa may
hold the key to a new AIDS treatment.
As more and more species disappear from the
Earth, more and more sources of possible
medicines slip away from us.
For years, the beef industry has been cutting down
trees and forests for cattle ranching. This is one of
the main causes of rainforest destruction.
So, what is being done to stop this destruction? Many
organizations are hard at work, trying to do their part to
preserve this unique environment.
For example, laws are put in place to protect endangered
species of plants and animals. Laws also ban or control
trade in a long list of products from animal species
including Asian rhino, jaguars, parrots and apes.
Although rainforests cover only a
small part of the world, far away
from our homes, they have an
effect on all of us.
Once rainforests are destroyed, they will be gone forever.
You can do something about it. Your home provides many
chances to help the rainforest:
•Reduce, reuse, and recycle
• Use products from the rainforest without destroying it.
• Encourage local and national organizations, such as
COTERC to help save the rainforest.
For more information about rainforests and what you can do
to help, contact:
The Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and
P.O. Box 335, Pickering, Ontario, Canada L1V 2R
Website: www.coterc.org Email: firstname.lastname@example.org