|While many temperate species have tropical equivalents, there is a greater range of habitats in tropical forests. The warm, moist climate also contributes to the great numbers of species. There are complete groups of tropical rainforest organisms that are absent from areas with cooler climates. One example are the epiphytes -- smaller plants that actually grow in the branches of larger trees.|
Epiphytes and vines growing in the forest canopy, Costa Rica. Photo courtesy Naomi Woods.
|Animals are numerous in the forest. And wherever animals are numerous, parasites are even more numerous. While predators require many individuals of other species for survival, many parasites can exist on a single host. It's been estimated that half the species on earth are parasites, and they are carried by all animals, especially birds and mammals. Including us.||Epiphytes can make up over 50 percent of the plant species in a tropical rainforest. In the temperate zone, all orchids are found on the ground, while in the tropics there are 20,000 species of epiphytic orchids alone! Epiphytes come in all shapes--hanging, sprawling vines, bushy clumps of water-catching leaves, even cactus-like plants. In some temperate coastal forests, trees are carpeted with layers of epiphytic moss and lichens, but there is nowhere near the variety of plant shapes and sizes as in the tropics.|
If you're soft and defenceless, you are likely to be eaten--unless you look like something else. With close examination, tree bark may turn into a beetle, dead leaves into a moth, twigs and foliage into other well disguised insects. But confusing colors, shapes, and patterns are used for more than defense: predators also take advantage of camouflage. Sometimes hiding is not enough, and seemingly harmless creatures defend themselves with poisonous chemicals.
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[plants] [fungi] [mammals] [birds] [insects] [reptiles] [amphibians] [fish]
[camouflage & chemical defenses] [arboreal adaptation]
[tropical forests] [temperate forests]
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