Save The Rainforest, Inc.
|1. Red Backed Squirrel Monkeys
travel through the forest canopy with phenomenal speed and grace. This
agility is the result of extraordinary eye and motor control made
possible by a large brain. In fact, this diminutive animal has the
highest ratio of brain mass to body weight of any primate. If it were as
big as a human being its head would be nearly the size of a basketball.
2. The delicious Brazil nuts we crack open and eat during Christmas come from massive rainforest trees that, despite their size, are dependant upon the meekest of creatures. Agoutis, dwelling on the forest floor, disperse the nuts, and gnaw through the hard shell with their rodent teeth to get at the seeds, allowing them to germinate. Just as vital are the large bodied bees that pollinate the trees. They are the only insects powerful enough to pry open the stubborn Brazil nut flower. Without them there would be no Brazil nuts for us or the agoutis.
3. Like Godzilla in a monster movie, anteaters terrorize ant and termite cities with impunity. Using large, razor sharp claws they rip open nests and gather up their unfortunate victims with a long sticky tongue that can dart out of their elongated snouts one hundred and fifty times per minute - making them an eating machine. They do not destroy the entire city, however, and after a short feeding frenzy they walk awkwardly away on their knuckles, or the side of their front feet (depending on the species) to return another day.
4. At first glance it would seem that sloths and termites have nothing in common. Termites are highly activity social insects that feed on wood and worry about being eaten by long tongued anteaters. Sloths are solitary mammals that spend almost all of their time lazily munching on leaves in the forest canopy, keeping a weather eye out for the great Harpy Eagles who prey on them. But they are both dependent on a third party, protozoans. In the stomachs of both the termite and the sloth live microscopic entities that digest the cellulose the larger creatures can not, thereby allowing them to live on diet that other animals would starve upon.
5. Of all the animals the ancient Egyptians held sacred, the scarab beetles were the most unlikely. There are about thirty five thousand species of them. Some dine on dung, others prefer carrion, but most eat dead plant material, making themselves useful as decomposers. The most massive scarabs are the Goliath beetles of tropical Africa. Their wood eating larva can reach the size of a cigar. The adult Hercules beetle, though not as heavy as the Goliaths, are longer. With their bizarre horns shaped in the form of a vertical pincer, they can attain a staggering length of eight inches.
6. The Keel-Billed Toucan is an outlandish creature. Its long body, light weight and colorful beak makes it an ungainly flyer, and its vocalizations sound more like a frog's than a bird's. The Toucan uses its dexterous beak to snip fruit from branches that would be out of reach for other birds, and flips its head back to swallow the victual. When it is nesting in the hollow of a tree, however, the sexually provocative green, yellow, red, orange and black beak is a hindrance. Fortunately, the Toucan can twist its head around and rest its ridiculously large bill on its back, thereby allowing it to fit into cavities that would otherwise be too constrictive.
7. The shock of an Electrophorus electricus can knock a man off his feet and make him walk funny for the next twenty four hours. But the electric eel is just one species of Amazonian fish among many. In fact, there are more fish species in the Amazon Basin than in the entire Atlantic ocean. These include several types of the well known piranha, the ten foot long Arapaima gigas, twenty kinds of stingray and twelve species of fresh water anchovy.
8. The man who invented helicopters said he got the idea from watching hummingbirds. In slow motion you can see that they hover by rapidly rotating their wings in opposite directions. This hovering allows them to station themselves at the mouth of a flower and dip their specially adapted beak into whatever blossom receptacle it was designed for. Awaiting the hummingbird is the pollen eating flower mite, which hitches rides from flower to flower in the nasal passages of hummingbirds. More sinister creatures also await the hummingbird. Small eyelash vipers and large praying mantis lay next to the red and yellow flowers that attract hummingbirds, disguised and poised to strike at any individual who gets too close.
9. The male Giant Forest Hog of Central Africa can reach six hundred pounds in weight and seven feet in length, and its manners can be less than gracious. Its courtship of a female consists of grunting, spraying the object of its desire with a fragrant urine, and butting her hind quarters. Slightly more refined are the peccaries, new world cousins of the hogs. White Lipped Peccaries are the only rainforest ungulate that live in large herds. As many as three hundred can be found roaming the forest floor together feeding on fallen fruit and nuts, that to the delight of the peccaries, are often infested with tasty beetle larva.
10. In Madagascar scientists were puzzled by the fact that all the Calavaria trees on the island were older than three hundred years. After extensive research they found that the seeds of the tree had to pass through the alimentary canal of the Dodo bird to germinate. They imported wild turkeys to impersonate the long extinct Dodo, and soon Calavaria sapling began to appear. Dr. Alan Young, of the Milwaukee Museum of Natural History, was studying a somewhat similar problem in Central America. New groves of chocolate producing cacao trees were not fruiting. He discovered that a species of midge, the only pollinator of the cacao flower, had declined drastically because the new groves had been scrupulously cared for. The little ponds that the midge had bred in had been eliminated, along with unsightly underbrush. The groves were left in a more natural state after that, and the cacao starting fruiting again.
11. Ants are the true rulers of the rainforest. The combined weight of the ants living in a hectare of rainforest outweighs that of any other animal. There are two hundred different kinds of leaf cutter ants, alone. Some of the leaf cutter nests attain depths of twenty feet and are as wide across as half a football field. Such a nest will harvest a ton of leaves every year to nourish the fungus it farms in the depths of its colony. Army ants have no nests. They bivouac in a mass of connecting bodies when they are at rest, and sweep through the forest eating anything in their path when they are on the move. Antbirds shadow these marches, preying on the insects that are too fleet for the army ants.
12. Bromeliads are some of the most common epiphytes found on the trunks and branches of rainforest trees. They resemble the stiff leaved tops of pineapples, and retain rain water in their bowl like base. Countless species of aquatic invertebrates and frogs live in the pools of bromeliads, fertilizing them with their waste. During dry periods some host trees will grow roots into the bromeliad to get at the stored water, which can be considerable. Large tank bromeliads have been found to contain twelve gallons of water.
13. Compared to other boa constrictors in the rainforest, the Emerald Tree Boa is small, reaching only six feet. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in color. It is a brilliant green with white vertical strips and a yellow belly. Its coloration helps it blend in to the forest understory where it preys on any small mammal that mistakes it for a mass of leaves splotched with bird droppings and comes within range of its deadly coils.
14. Chestnut-headed oropendolas build nests that hang down from branches where their young are safe from arboreal snakes like the Emerald Tree Boa. They further protect nestlings by locating nests near stinging trigonid bee colonies whenever possible. These bees are fierce when aroused, and will drive off marauding toucans that like to supplement their diet of fruit with oropendola chicks. The bees drive off anteaters as well, and sometimes reside in termite nests, where their presence is tolerated because of this. Termite soldiers return the favor by defending the bees from carnivorous wasps and ants.
15. Male Carpenter Bees are not particularly sexy. To attract a mate they must, like some human males, go shopping for an alluring perfume. They find it in the strongly scented flowers of the Gongora orchids which they pollinate, not in return for nectar, but in return for an aroma that no female Carpenter Bee can resist.
16. Dwelling in the depths of Gabon's rainforest in West Africa, mandrills, the most colorful of all mammals, live in small family bands feeding on insects, leaves, roots and tubers. Related to baboons, they spend most of their time on the ground, retiring to trees at night to sleep. Dominant males may reach one hundred pounds, making them the largest monkey in the world. Their vivid blue and red facial and rump accents are brighter than lower ranking males, as a result of high testosterone levels in their bloodstream.
17. The larva of fig wasps feed on the fruit of the fig tree, whose flowers have been cross fertilized by its parents. This arrangement seems to be satisfactory to the tree, whose fruits still flourish and end up in the guts of monkeys and birds. But not for long, as people who take figs to relieve their constipation know, figs are laced with laxatives. For the fig tree this means its seeds will not remain in the digestive system of an animal long enough to be damaged.
18. The Psittaciformes are the stars of the bird world. They range in size from the four inch tall pygmy parrot to the two foot high Macaw. Large brained, colorfully plumed and socially inclined, they make good pets, forming flock-partners with their human owners, and displaying great intelligence. Amazon Parrots and Cockatoos have been known to live up to one hundred years in captivity.
19. The largest flower in the world is not the prettiest, nor does it give off a pleasant odor. It is the reproductive organ of a parasitic plant called rafflesia, and it can grow to three feet in diameter. The flower takes as long as a human baby to develop, turning brick red with yellow polka dots upon maturity. It has a repugnant odor that attracts flies. Of all the flowering parasitic plants rafflesa is the most specialized, lacking stems, roots and leaves. It consists solely of tissue strands growing in a host vine, and a flower. The seeds are crudely dispersed through the rainforest by the treading hooves of tapir, wild boar and deer.
20. Of the five thousand species of frogs on our planet, almost all of them live in the tropics. They range from boldly colored poison arrow dart frogs that can fit on your fingernail, to African bullfrogs as large as a grapefruit. They all have thin, permeable skin that make them very sensitive to their surroundings, and good indicators of environmental quality. Their numbers are declining drastically.
21. Nearly one fourth of all the mammal species on Earth are bats. Most bats are insect eaters, and can eat mosquitoes at the rate of six hundred per hour. Other bats, primarily found in the tropics, feed on nectar or fruit, and are responsible for pollinating and dispersing the seeds of bananas, avocados, dates, mangos, cloves and cashews. More closely related to whales than rodents, female bats produce only one pup per year. That pup may live to the ripe old age of thirty two, its heart beating nine hundred times per minute whenever it is active.
22. Attaining two hundred feet in height and living hundreds of years, the Ceiba tree is an unmistakable monarch of the neotropical rainforest that was worshipped by the Maya. It loses its leaves during the dry season and then blooms, attracting bats to its nocturnal flowers. Its large, elliptical fruit splits open like the pods of the milkweed plant, and a fluffy kapok is carried away by winds, thus dispersing its seeds. Its wood is light and soft, making it ideal for building giant canoes, which is what some indigenous people do, taking on average of six months to fell and shape the tree into a river going craft that can carry sixty people or more.
23. The jaguar may be the largest cat found in the neotropics, but the margay is the best adapted. Weighing only twenty pounds, it spends almost all of its time in the treetops hunting arboreal rats, squirrels, opossums, birds and monkeys. It is secretive and nocturnal, with huge eyes for seeing at night. Most amazing of all, it has rotating ankle joints that allow it to climb down tree trunks head first - something no other cat, domestic or wild, can possibly do.
Web design by GetSirius