Tropical Forest Animal Communities


Equatorial forests are unique for their high plant and animal diversities. Diversity results from speciation and is historically related to patterns of biogeography that result in part from plate tectonics. Causal factors that generate high tropical diversity are warm and wet climate, equitable seasonality, large area, high plant productivity and complex biotic interactions leading to ecological specialization. Within the tropics, wet forests exhibit the highest animal diversity, likely due to greater plant productivity and less harsh seasonality. Some species of long‐distance migrant birds have evolved in the tropics and are integral components of tropical forests during their winter residencies. Fragmentation of forests has accelerated globally and threatens numerous animal species with potential extinction. Conservation efforts must recognize factors such as importance of large area, need for animal‐assisted pollination and seed dispersal, minimal hunting pressure and habitat connectivity.

Keywords: biodiversity; migration; biogeography; rain forest; fragmentation

Figure 1.

The Slaty‐tailed Trogon (Trogon massena) is one of about 40 species of trogons and quetzals all of which are confined to the tropics and sub‐tropics. Most of them are in the New World.

Figure 2.

The Common Woolly Monkey (Lagothrix lagothricha) is an example of a New World monkey with a prehensile tail that functions as a fifth limb. Only some species of New World monkeys have prehensile tails.

Figure 3.

The millipede Nyssodesmus python is one of the largest millipede species (10 cm). It curls into a ball and exudes a cyanogenic compound when disturbed.

Figure 4.

The Capybara (Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris) is the world's largest rodent. It is 1.2 m in length and weighs about 55 kg. The species is found throughout the neotropics in wetland habitats.


Further Reading

Jacobs M (1988) The Tropical Rain Forest. Berlin: Springer‐Verlag.

Kricher J (1997) A Neotropical Companion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Leigh EG Jr (1999) Tropical Forest Ecology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Primack R and Corlett R (2005) Tropical Rain Forests. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Robinson JG and Redford KH (eds) (1991) Neotropical Wildlife Use and Conservation. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Schelhas J and Greenberg R (eds) (1996) Forest Patches in Tropical Landscapes. Washington DC: Island Press.

Terborgh J (1992) Diversity and the Tropical Rain Forest. New York: Scientific American Library.

Whitmore TC (1990) An Introduction to Tropical Rain Forests. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Kricher, John(Dec 2007) Tropical Forest Animal Communities. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003184]