10 Remarkable Animals Found in the Rainforest

It's the most species-rich region on Earth, and its inhabitants are amazing.

A white-tufted marmoset hanging from a small tree branch

Lelia Valduga / Getty Images

No terrestrial ecosystems are as essential as rainforests, the most species-rich regions on Earth. Covering only about 8% of the Earth’s surface, tropical rainforests contain over half of the planet’s animal and plant species. Because of the immense biodiversity of these habitats, they are home to some of the most intriguing creatures in the world. From snakes to dolphins to marmosets, learn about the rainforest's remarkable animals.

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A spotted jaguar walking out of thick, green vegetation in South America

Jami Tarris / Getty Images

Jaguars, the 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. Both male and female jaguars roar when they want to find each other to mate. The sound is similar to that of a saw cutting through wood, but as the WWF says, "with the saw only moving in one direction."

Though most cats are known for having an aversion to water, jaguars, like tigers, are an exception. They're strong swimmers and can cross wide bodies of water. Though jaguars can be found in other ecosystems, they are perfectly adapted to the rainforest and are as comfortable in the water as they are on land.

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A brown okapi with striped white and brown legs standing in front of a stone wall reaching its face toward green vegetation

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Looking a bit like a cross between a zebra and an antelope, the okapi has even been confused for a unicorn. But the unusual looking okapi is actually a member of the giraffe family. 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 use them to thoroughly wash their eyelids and their large ears inside and out. It has short oily fur that helps to waterproof it in the wet rainforest, and its lower-body stripes help it to camouflage amid the foliage.

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Amazon River Dolphin

A river dolphin with its head out of water and its pink mouth open floating in a river

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The Amazon River dolphin, or boto, is one of only five living species of river dolphins on the planet, and it is the world's largest, weighing up to 350 pounds in some cases. This dolphin occupies the murky waters of the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America, and is frequently found swimming among 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. It's considered to be a "relatively abundant freshwater cetacean with an estimated population in the tens of thousands," though dams and pollution do threaten them in certain regions.

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Glass Frog

A green tropical glass frog with orange eyes and yellow feet siting on a green leaf

Dirk Ercken / Shutterstock

These remarkable see-through frogs, found throughout the rainforests of Central and South America, have skin so translucent that you can see the plants around them through their body. Britannica says, "An observer can see the heart pumping blood into the arteries and food moving through the gut." This unusual feature protects the glass frog from predators, who often don’t notice these arboreal frogs in the forest. More than 100 species of this amazing family of amphibians are believed to exist.

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A blue, red, and white headed female Cassowary standing in tall green grass cass

Neil Tackaberry / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Found in the rainforests of New Guinea and northeastern Australia, these colorful flightless birds look like flamboyant ostriches wearing razor-like helmets. They are three species of cassowaries, with the Southern cassowary holding the title for the largest, at four to five and half feet tall. Unlike many other bird species, it's the female cassowary, rather than the male, that is typically more brightly colored. They can also be dangerous, with Scientific American saying they're known to kill humans, usually with puncture wounds, lacerations, and bone fractures.

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A brown female marmoset with white tufts of fur on either side of her head holding her babies

Leonardo Costa Farias / Getty Images

These tiny monkeys from the rainforests of South America might be the cutest primates of all time. Common marmosets, which almost look like squirrels, are adaptable and have been able to thrive in habitats outside of their normal range. Due in part to their adaptation of claws instead of nails, marmosets are able to live in a variety of forest types. They eat insects, fruit, tree sap, and small animals. At least 51 species of marmosets are known to exist, each with eccentric variations of fuzzy coats. Even more adorable, they almost always give birth to twins. Having a single baby is about as common as triplets.

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Sun Bear

A brown sun bear climbing a tree in a green forest

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The sun bear, the smallest species of bear in the world, inhabits the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. It weighs between 60 and 150 pounds. 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 it is the only bear that lives almost exclusively in the trees, sleeping in nests made of twigs and leaves. The sun bear gets its name from the distinctive U-shaped orange marking on its chest, which some say looks like a rising sun.

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A brown and black spotted anaconda curled up in a shallow body of muddy water

Patrick K. Campbell / Shutterstock

Found in the rainforests and floodplains of South America, the anaconda is the largest snake species in the world. It can reach a length of 30 feet and weigh up to 550 pounds. Though it's non-venomous, it is capable of killing a grown man by constriction—though 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. They eat many different creatures, from peccaries (wild pigs) to tapirs to capybaras.

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A brown Siamang with its balloon-like throat pouch with its arms in the air and its mouth open as if screaming

Suneko / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Siamangs are black-furred apes native to the forests of Southeast Asia and the largest species of gibbon in the world. They are particularly distinctive for their large balloon-like throat pouch, which they use for making loud, whooping calls. These calls are unmistakable in the dense jungle and are meant to establish territorial boundaries between rival groups. Grooming is an essential social activity for siamangs. The dominant animals in a social group receive the most grooming; during breeding season, adult males groom females. They are one of the few primates known to form permanent pairs.

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Matamata Turtle

A brown mata mata turtle on a log with green plants in the background

Mark Kostich / Getty Images

The matamata 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 matamata's shell is believed to resemble a piece of bark, offering the turtle camouflage from predators and prey in its habitat. It uses its pointy snout like a snorkel to breathe, which allows it to minimize movement and evade detection. These turtles can weigh as much as 38 pounds, the size of a four-year-old child.

How Do Animals Survive in the Rainforest?

Being the most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystem in the world, the tropical rainforest is teeming with animals of all shapes and sizes, all competing for food and doing their best to avoid an abundance of predators. Rainforest-adapted species must be always on the defense. Here are some traits they share.

  • The ability to blend in with surroundings and trick predators into believing they're not food, such as camouflage, mimicry, and size reduction
  • Poisonous venom, such as with the poisonous dart frog, pit viper, anaconda, Brazilian wandering spider, and Peruvian giant yellow-leg centipede
  • Nocturnality and nocturnal hunting, either to avoid daytime predators or encounter less competition for food sources
  • Climbing and arboreal habitation to avoid ground predators
  • Limited diets—and, sometimes, special adaptations to support those diets—because of food competition
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