What exactly is a rain forest, you say? Well, on the outside, a rain
forest has a wall averaging 20 feet thick that is made of a tangle of
vines that love light. This wall seals off the interior creating the
illusion that the whole jungle is this thick. But if you find an
animal path or stream to follow, you can slip through and enter this
Once you're inside, you can look up and see a tree canopy that's as high
as a 17 story building! And it's pretty dark too, a perpetual twilight.
Only 1% of the sunlight ever actually touches the floor of the forest. And
moonlight, even a full moon, doesn't get through at all. You'd better have
a flashlight with you if you plan on reading any comics.
Rain forests have different layers that support different animals and
insects. Some plants and animals occupy specific layers, while others
live and feed wherever they can. I live in the lower canopy of the South
American rain forest because a lot of the fruit I like to eat is found there.
The tallest trees in the canopy layer grow up to 200 feet high. Some of the
trees that poke through (called the "emergents") have been known to grow as
high as 270 feet. It is not uncommon for the expansive umbrella crown of an
emergent tree to cover an entire acre. Now there's a good spot for a
Many types of indigenous people live in rain forests. The environment
is perfect for tribes of hunter-gatherers. Local materials are used to
make their blow guns, spears, and arrows. The forest also provides building
and roofing materials, wild cotton for clothing, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics,
and more. In fact, just about every need can be met by the rain forest. For
these people, the rain forest is like living in a gigantic mall.
Amazonian deep-forest Yanomamo are a group of forest people that can
literally run up heavy trunked emergent trees (over 200 feet) without
breaking a sweat. It's because of their remarkably wide feet, which
also have advantages running around the muddy rain forest floors.
The Pygmies are a tribe of honey gatherers that rely almost exclusively on
the help of a bird called the Greater Honeyguide to direct them to the
beehives. This little bird leads the Pygmies with its rasping, churring
chatter and its white outer tail feathers to point out the proper tree. The
bird lives on beeswax, so after the Pygmies climb the tree with a bundle of
smoking leaves to put the bees to sleep, they take the honey and leave the
beeswax behind as a reward for the bird.
Here you'll find bats with wingspans up to 5.5 feet, moths with wingspans
of 12 inches, frogs so big they could eat rats, and rats themselves weighing
up to 100 pounds. Let's take a closer look at just a few of the interesting
animals and insects that live in the rain forrest.
Piranha, The piranha is a small fish that is activated into a feeding
frenzy by the smell of blood. Their teeth are so sharp that they can strip
a 100 pound animal to the bone in a minute. No telling what they could do
to a person unlucky enough to go for a swim at the wrong time!
Large electric eels live in tropical rivers. Their bodies can generate
enough electricity to knock a person senseless and, in some cases, can
cause drowning. "Shocking" ... but true.
Anacondas can even swallow a crocodile. The anaconda is a water boa and
it is the largest snake in the world at 37.5 feet long and weighing over
500 pounds. They've been known to eat people now and then, although they
don't make a regular diet of humans. Boa, oh boa that's a lotta snake!
In every rain forest there are many kinds of plants. Many, many, many
kinds of plants. In fact, inside a single hectare (2.47 acres) you can
find up to 750 types of trees and 1,500 types of plants! But this entire
range of species can easily be broken down into four categories, grouped
by how they