10 Animals Found in the Rainforest

Right at home

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No terrestrial ecosystems on Earth are as essential as the rainforests. As many as 50-75 percent of all the species on Earth are indigenous to the planet's rainforests, and millions more may remain undiscovered. Because of the immense biodiversity in these habitats, they are home to some of the most intriguing creatures in the world.

Jaguar

Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons

Jaguars — specters of the rainforests of Central and South America — are the apex predator in their home range. They are the largest feline to inhabit the Americas, and the third largest in the world behind the tiger and the lion. Though most cats are known for having an aversion to water, jaguars — like tigers — are an exception. Though jaguars can be found in other ecosystems, they are perfectly adapted to the rainforest, as comfortable in the water as they are on land.

Okapi

Photo: Charles Miller [CC BY 2.0]/Wikimedia Commons

It looks a bit like a cross between a zebra and an antelope, and has even been confused for a unicorn. But the bizarre-looking okapi is none of the above. Its closest living relative is the giraffe.

These beautiful, elusive creatures inhabit the rainforests of Central Africa. They spend most of their time grazing leaves, buds, grasses, ferns and fruit with their exceptionally long, agile and sticky tongues. Their tongues are so dexterous that they are able to thoroughly wash their eyelids and their large ears inside and out.

Amazon River dolphin

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The Amazon River dolphin, or boto, is one of only five living species of river dolphin on the planet, and it is the world's largest. This dolphin occupies the murky waters of the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America, frequently found swimming amongst the trees in the flooded forest. The species is also often referred to as the "pink dolphin," due to the occasional pink hue of its skin.

Glass frog

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These remarkable see-through frogs, found throughout the rainforests of Central and South America, have skin so translucent that you can see right through to their organs. More than 150 species of this amazing family of amphibians are believed to exist.

Cassowary

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Found in the rainforests of New Guinea and Northeastern Australia, these colorful flightless birds look like flamboyant ostriches wearing razor-like helmets. They are the third largest birds in the world (behind only the ostrich and the emu), and unlike many species of bird, it's the female cassowary — rather than the male — that is typically more brightly colored.

Marmoset

Photo: Carmem A. Busko [CC BY 2.5]/Wikimedia Commons

These tiny monkeys from the rainforests of South America might be the cutest primates of all time; in fact, they are the smallest monkeys in the world. About 22 species are known to exist, each with eccentric variations of fuzzy coats. Even more adorable, they almost always give birth to twins.

Sun bear

Photo: Tambako the Jaguar [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr

The sun bear, the smallest species of bear in the world, inhabits the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. It is one of only two species of bear in the world that has adapted to life in the jungle (the other is South America's spectacled bear), and is the only bear that lives almost exclusively in the trees. The bear gets its name from the distinctive U-shaped orange marking on its chest.

Anaconda

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Found in the rainforests and floodplains of South America, the anaconda is the largest, heaviest and second longest snake species in the world. It's also the stuff of B-grade horror flicks. Though it's non-venomous, it is capable of killing a grown man by constriction — but such attacks are extremely rare. Its semi-aquatic lifestyle is part of what allows the anaconda to grow to such a massive size, and the snake is known to be an excellent swimmer.

Siamang

Photo: Suneko [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr

Siamangs are black-furred apes native to the forests of Southeast Asia; they are the largest species of gibbon in the world. They are particularly distinctive for their balloon-like throat pouch, which they use for making loud, whooping calls. Their calls are unmistakable in the dense jungle, and are meant to establish territorial boundaries between rival groups.

Mata mata

Photo: Michael Gil [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr

The mata mata might be the most unusual looking species of turtle in the world. Found in the rainforests of the Amazon and Orinoco basins, this large sedentary reptile is characterized by its triangular, flattened head and shell. Flaps of skin also seem to dangle from its neck and head, almost like damp leaves. In fact, the odd shape of the mata mata's shell is believed to resemble a piece of bark, offering the turtle camouflage.