Arboreal Habitats: Characteristics, Types & Examples

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  • 0:04 The Meaning of 'Arboreal'
  • 0:28 Arboreal Habitat…
  • 0:54 Types & Examples
  • 3:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

There are countless habitats on Earth, from freshwater lakes to underground burrows. This lesson will focus on life in the trees, discussing what these habitats look like as well as organisms that live in them.

The Meaning of 'Arboreal'

There are koalas, woodpeckers, sloths, squirrels, and countless other species happily living life with their heads in the clouds. No, no, they aren't absentminded, their heads are actually in the clouds, as they are arboreal, meaning they live in the trees.

The name makes sense since 'arboreal' comes from a Latin word for 'tree'. Let's explore some arboreal habitats, as well as the critters that inhabit them.

Arboreal Habitat Characteristics

An arboreal habitat is a home for organisms that live in trees. Habitats provide critters with adequate food, shelter, and other conditions so they can thrive and reproduce. Arboreal habitats can vary from the cecropia trees in tropical rain forests to the white spruce of the arctic.

In fact, wherever there are trees, there's likely an organism filling the arboreal habitat. This can include the canopy, the branches, inside of the tree, and even the roots of the tree.

Types and Examples

The list of arboreal critters and habitats is long and varied. There are insects, rodents, birds, mammals, and even fungi that live in trees. While we can't cover all of them, let's explore a few critters and their arboreal habitats.


Sloths inhabit the forests of Central and South America and have special stomachs to help them obtain nutrients from leaves as well as curved claws to help them grip onto branches.

Now, let's head over to North America and check out the arboreal red squirrel, which inhabits both deciduous (trees with leaves) and coniferous (trees with needles) trees of North America. They have a bushy tail to help with balance and claws to help them grip. They eat cones, seeds, and insects.


The marsupial koalas, on the other hand, live in Australia, and survive off of eucalyptus trees. They have special paws and claws to help them climb and jump from tree to tree. Like the sloth, they have special adaptations to their stomach to help them obtain nutrients from a leaf-based diet.


Another North American species, the pileated woodpecker, lives in coniferous and deciduous forests. It uses its beak to drill holes in trees where it builds its nests.

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