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Animals and the Rain Forest
From Grolier's The New Book of Knowledge
Squirrel monkeys in the rain forest.

Photo: www.primates.com

Tropical rain forests are home to a wide array of animal life, including parrots, monkeys, sloths, insects, bats, and more. In the temperate rain forest, wildlife includes hawks, owls, martens, wolves, and salmon. Alaska's Tongass National Forest is home to the greatest numbers of bald eagles and brown bears in the world.

In the tropical rain forest, little wind occurs to pollinate plants, and plants of the same species may be far apart. As a result, many plants in the tropical rain forest rely on animals to pollinate them.

Most flowers in the rain forest are pollinated by bees, which are drawn by the bright colors of the flora. Flowers that are pollinated by other types of insects have a different set of adaptations. For instance, flowers of the Aristolochia plant mimic the smell and the look of rotting meat (they are yellow, purple, or brown in color). This attracts flies, which, thinking they have found rotting meat, lay their eggs on the flower, pollinating it in the process. Some orchids produce a scent similar to that of a female bee or wasp. This attracts male bees and wasps, which pollinate the flower.

Other creatures also play an important pollinating role. Beetles are attracted to flowers such as those produced by the Dieffenbachia, which have a fruitlike odor and plenty of petals and other structures on which the beetles can feed. Hummingbirds can pick up pollen while feeding on one flower, and then deposit it on the next flower that they find. Plants that rely on birds for pollination—such as the hibiscus—usually produce flowers that are bright orange, red, or yellow, and that are strong enough to hold the bird while it is feeding. Because birds do not have a strong sense of smell, such flowers are rarely scented.

Some plants in the tropical rain forest even rely on bats for pollination. These species usually have scented flowers that bloom at night to attract these nocturnal flying mammals. Color does not matter to bats—they cannot see well—so the flowers are often pale. However, the flowers must stand up under the weight of the bat; they are often shaped like a ball or a bell.

Animals in the rain forest also help spread the seeds of plants. Some animals—including bats, tigers, pigs, and reptiles—expel seeds in their droppings, spreading them throughout the rain forest. The nutmeg tree, for example, relies on birds, which eat the fruit of the tree. Since the seed inside the fruit has a hard shell, it safely passes out of the digestive system of the bird. If conditions are right, the seed will grow wherever it was dropped. Other animals, such as primates, carry seeds on their fur from one area of the forest to another, thereby ensuring the next generation of plant species.

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