A rainforest is one of the most intriguing locations on the earth. Their density, tangled jungle vines and uniquely adapted wildlife invoke curiosity and appeal to the imagination in children and adults alike.
Rainforests are normally divided in five identifiable zones referred to as layers or life zones. The lowest level resides at the ground, in the Herb Layer. This layer consists mainly of saplings, ferns and tree trunks. Although slim shafts of sunlight may reach down this far, this layer seldom sees light. Small ground-dwelling birds called pittas live at the layer, avoiding other life as much as possible. The soil itself can not produce many plants. Unlike the ground floor of an ordinary forest, covered with leaves and castoff material from the trees, the rain forest floor is beset by tiny scavengers that immediately consume what dead organisms are able to drop through jungle growth to the ground.
Slightly higher is the Shrub Layer of the rainforest, above the ground from approximately two to twenty feet. Here you’ll find vines, and unique trees referred to as “cauliflorous”, which means they grow clumps of flowers directly from the tree trunks. The shapes of the flower clumps do indeed look somewhat like cauliflower. Larger animals such as tapirs can get through the shrub layer quite efficiently.
Standing in the rainforest and looking up twenty to forty feet, you see the Understory Layer. This layer, along with the lower ones, is where you will see small birds feeding. It is so dense with foliage that most creatures can not move through it. There may be opossums at this layer in South American rainforests, or bush babies in the African area. This is because these creatures have adapted to the slippery branches with their grasp and prehensile tail, respectively.
The much taller Canopy Layer is teeming with life. Macaws, toucans, and bright birds of the parrot family reside there, and so do climbing animals like monkeys and sloths. There are a multitude of vines and bromeliads growing on the vines and trees that can withstand perching and swinging up to a weight of several tons to a single branch.
The highest layer in the rainforest, made up of the newest growth, is called the Emergent Layer. This is a prime location of birds of prey to look for quarry, some of them eagles with the ability to capture monkeys. This layer, of course, is highly exposed to the elements, so most animals will gravitate instead between the Canopy and Understory.
A person may find it astonishingly easy to walk through the two lower layers of the rainforest, look around, up, and enjoy observing the unique wildlife and jungle growth. If you are lucky enough to have this experience, surely you will find it one of the most intriguing adventures ever taken.