What are Tropical Rain Forests

Tropical rain forests are woodlands of tall trees that occur in tropical climates. The temperature in a rain forest rarely rises above 93 degrees Fahrenheit or drops below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. An average of four to twenty-one feet of rain fall in a rain forest, and thundershowers may occur more than 200 days a year. Because of the continual moisture and warmth, rain forests stay green throughout the year. Only a few species lose all of their leaves for a brief period. The production of flowers and fruits in the rain forest is not seasonal; it varies from species to species. Some species produce fruits every year, others fruit several times a year, and a large group of trees in southeast Asia, the dipterocarps, produce fruit at unpredictable intervals of from two to five years.

Rain forests contain more different kinds of plants than any other forest in the world. Scientists have counted more than 250 species of trees in small tracts of rain forest in South America and southeast Asia. A similar plot of forest in northern New York would contain only about 10 to 15 tree species. In addition to trees, rain forests contain a great variety of herbs, small palms, bamboos, climbing vines, ferns, and epiphytes such as orchids, bromeli-ads, and mosses that grow directly on the trunks and branches of large trees. Recent findings suggest that about 45 percent of the world's plant species occur in tropical rain forests.

A large percentage of the animals that live in tropical rain forests are insects. A single rain forest tree in Peru yielded 43 species of ants— about the same number as in all of the British Isles or Canada. A sample of nineteen tree crowns in Panama yielded more than 900 species of beetles. Birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals are also common in rain forests. Many animals such as bats, gibbons, monkeys, sloths, frogs, lizards, and snakes may spend their entire lives in the trees and never descend to the ground. Forest deer, hogs, tapirs, and many kinds of rodents roam the forest floor. Chimpanzees, coatis, and several members of the cat family live on the ground and in the trees.

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