Life in the Rainforest

Imagine you live in a place that is home to over half the world's species and more than 70 inches of rain fall each year.  You are hot, wet, and hunted.  How in the world will you survive?  That is a daily struggle for the animals in a rain forest.

Winter is the biggest challenge for inhabitants of the temperate rain forests, when cold weather and heavy snowfall can eliminate many food sources. Hibernation is one way that animals have adapted. By sleeping through the winter, animals do not have to worry about battling for the limited food supply and weathering fierce winter storms. However, these animals must eat a tremendous amount of food the other three seasons to ensure they do not starve during the winter, as they can lose half their weight during hibernation. Raccoons, woodchucks, skunks and bears hibernate, though some hibernate more deeply than others that may stir occasionally during winter.

During the rest of the year, residents of temperate rainforests have to stay alive to enjoy its bounty. Temperate rainforests are nowhere near as colorful as their tropical counterparts, as they lack the bright greens and color palates of tropical plants and flowers. This means that many animals in temperate rain forests are also less colorful, so they can blend into their surroundings better and avoid being seen by predators or prey.

Leaf cutter ants climb tall trees and cut small pieces of leaves which they carry back to their nest. The leaf pieces they carry are about 50 times their weight. The ants bury the leaf pieces and the combination of the leaves and the ants' saliva encourages the growth of a fungus, which is the only food these ants eat. There are relationships between animals and plants that benefit both. Some trees depend on animals to spread the seeds of their fruit to distant parts of the forest. Birds and mammals, such as bats, eat the fruits and travel some distance before the seeds pass through their digestive systems in another part of the forest.

With warm temperatures, water and an abundance of food, tropical rain forests support thousands of wildlife species. The competition means organisms must adapt or develop specialized traits to compete for environmental resources. Many rain forest animals use adaptations to carve out their own niches and protect themselves from predators.

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