Rain Forest Canopy and Species of Animals

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Author: Janice VanCleave

More than half of the different species of animals on Earth make their home in tropical rain forests, including as many as 30 million insect species. The types of animals found in a rain forest vary from layer to layer. Starting at the top emergent layer, the animals you might find include harpy eagles, howler monkeys, flying insects, insect-eating snakes, and bats.

The canopy layer houses the majority of the animals found in a tropical rain forest. This is because it contains an abundance of food, such as fruits and leaves. It also provides shelter for animals, such as spider monkeys, sloths, tree frogs, the margay cat, ants, beetles, bats, toucans, parrots, hummingbirds, the tailorbird, snakes, and lizards. Many of these animals never touch the forest floor during their entire lifetime.

The shaded area of the subcanopy (a forest's layer beneath the canopy) is the home of many flowering plants that provide food or homes for such animals as butterflies, termites, toads, frogs, snakes, lizards, beetles, and parakeets. The rain forest floor receives such a small amount of sunlight that few flowering plants can grow here. But there are edible roots and tubers (underground food-storing stems) as well as dead plant matter. Animals found here include armadillos, peccaries, slugs, termites, beetles, centipedes, and cockroaches.

The same animals are not found in all rain forests. Some are specific to a certain geographic location, such as lemurs in Madagascar, poison arrow frogs in South America, and the pitohui in New Guinea. (The pitohui's flesh and feathers contain a deadly poison.) Different apes are found in different areas, such as gibbons in southeast Asia, orangutans in Sumatra and Borneo, and gorillas, the largest, and most powerful ape, in Africa.

Tropical rain forests house giant versions of many animals, such as the Costa Rican cockroach, which can grow larger than your hand; the African swallowtail butterfly, with a 10-inch (25-cm) wingspan; and the python of southeast Asia, one of the largest snakes, which reaches lengths of up to 33 feet (11 m).


To model the nest building of a tailorbird.


  • scissors
  • 12-inch (30-cm) piece of string
  • large green leaf
  • pointed tweezers


  1. Cut the string into pieces about 2 inches (10 cm) long.
  2. Fold the leaf in half by placing the sides together.
  3. Use the pointed ends of the tweezers to punch a hole near the edge and through both layers of the leaf.
  4. Using the tweezer ends, which have been poked through the two layers of the folded leaf, pinch the end of one of the strings and pull half of the string through the holes.
  5. Make another hole with the tweezers through the two layers of the folded leaf near the first one and pull one of the ends of the string through the second hole.
  6. Repeat steps 3 through 5, using a second string.
  7. Continue making holes with the tweezers and pulling strings through the holes until the edges of the leaf are sewn together.

Rain Forest Animals

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