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Animals of the Forest: Types & Habitats

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this lesson, you'll be learning about animals of the forest. By the end of this lesson, you'll understand which animals and habitats exist in rainforests, temperate forests and the cold taiga.

What Are Forests?

Picture a forest. What sorts of things are you imagining? Maybe tall trees, squishy dirt, or crunchy leaves come to mind at first. Although these things certainly exist in a forest, there are actually many types of forests around the world. Forests are ecosystems with extensive tree growth. Forests grow in most parts of the globe, except for very cold, dry places, or at some high altitudes.

Although we might think of trees as all looking basically the same, there are tens of thousands of species of trees, and even more species of plants that make up the forest. These plants form the basis for the forest food web and support a number of animal species, from insects to 800-pound grizzly bears. Today, we're going to look at three main types of animal species and the different forest habitats they live in.

Mammals

Mammals are animals that are warm-blooded, have hair or fur and produce milk for their young. Lots of animals we know already are mammals, including our beloved cats and dogs, and even humans. Mammals live in all types of forests.

In the tropical rainforest, some of our closest relatives swing in the trees. The orangutan is an intelligent primate native to the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. They are arboreal, meaning they spend most of their life in the trees. They are highly intelligent and learn the locations of fruit in the forest, taking years to teach all of their secrets to their young much as humans do.

Orangutans live an arboreal life in tropical rainforests
orangutan

Not all forest mammals live on land, however. Many may be aquatic, living a life mostly in the water. Beavers are aquatic rodents, living throughout the temperate forests up to the cold Taiga in Canada and northern Europe. These animals build dome like structures called lodges out of trees from the forest. They stockpile wood for the winter inside the lodge, waterproofing it for the cold snow that is characteristic of northern coniferous forests, also known as the taiga.

Beavers build lodges in the forest to protect them during cold winters
beaver lodge

Reptiles

Most people have an affectionate reaction to mammals, with their cuddly fur and soft tails. However, just the opposite is true for reptiles. Reptiles are cold blooded animals covered in scales that lay dry eggs on land. Although not all reptiles inspire fear in humans, some definitely fit the bill. The green anaconda is the largest snake in the world, growing up to 30 feet long and weighing over 500 pounds. These reptiles live in the tropical forests of the Amazon Basin and although the move slowly on land, they are gifted swimmers. They can be found in aquatic habitats, swimming gracefully through the Amazon river and its tributaries.

Green anacondas are experts at swimming in their aquatic habitat
green anaconda

Although the giant green anaconda isn't poisonous, many reptiles are. The Komodo dragon is the largest living lizard, growing over 10 feet long and weighing over 350 pounds. It is endemic to several islands in Indonesia living in tropical savanna forests as well as beaches and rocky ridges. With the heat in these tropical forests, the Komodo dragon dwells in underground burrows during the day, unless it needs to hunt.

Prey are at the mercy of this large reptile. Its strong jaws contain venom as well as poisonous bacteria that infect their prey once it is bitten. When the Komodo dragon's work is done, they may follow their prey around at their leisure, waiting for it to die.

Amphibians

Reptiles aren't the only poisonous animals in the forest. Amphibians are semi-aquatic, cold blooded animals. They spend their early life with gills in water, and then later develop into their adult bodies, capable of breathing on land.

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