Layers of the Rain Forest

Did you know that rain forests are home to over half of the world's plants and animals?

The trees of the tropical rain forest provide shelter for many animals, such as birds, monkeys, cats, butterflies, insects, snakes, and frogs. Because most trees in the rain forest are very tall, they are equipped to hold many different animals. Some animals live at the bottom of the trees, where it is dark and damp. Others live towards the top of the trees where it is light.

Picture a tree in the rain forest and divide it into four layers: the bottom layer is the forest floor; the second layer is the understory; the third layer is the canopy; and the fourth is called the emergent layer.

The emergent layer is where the treetops join together to form the roof of the forest. This is where trees soak up the most sun. The harpy eagle lives and hunts here. Other animals, such as the toucan, sloth, macaw, and parrot can be found here as well.

The canopy is a bright and colorful place, full of animals and plants. That's right, there are plants that grow on trees! These plants are called epiphytes. Epiphytes grow along the branches of a tree. They dangle their roots and collect moisture from the damp air; they also get nutrients from decayed leaves, algae, and moss.

The canopy is also home to many wonderful creatures such as howler monkeys, spider monkeys, orangutans, sloths, and fruit bats. These animals love to eat the sweet fruit that grows in the canopy. Other animals that live in the canopy are tree frogs, parrots, hummingbirds, butterflies, toucans, and bees.

The understory is darker than the canopy as it is farther away from the sun. Boa constrictors, emerald tree snakes, anole lizards and monkeys cling to lianas. Lianas (thick, woody vines) grow up trees and act as ladders for animals to climb up from the forest floor to the understory. Many cats, such as the jaguar, leopard and ocelot, hide in the branches of the understory waiting to pounce on their prey below.

The forest floor is the darkest and dampest part of the forest. Not much sunlight penetrates through here, so little plant life grows. The soil is covered by leaf litter (decayed leaves), which provides nutrients for tree roots. Leaf cutter ants, spiders, termites, mice, anteaters, jaguars, leopards, panthers, and gorillas live here.

Now we know how just one tree in the rain forest can provide many different habitats for various animals and plants to live.

© Pearson

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Bill Nye the Science Guy episodes 35 Forests

Click on the word RAINFOREST BELOW

Read the article and make a diagram of the animals and plants found at each layer.


With what you have learned about the rainforest, let's compare it to the movie the jungle book.

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