The intricacies of the tropical rainforest food web are incredibly diverse and interesting if you look closely at how the rainforest plants and animals sustain each other. Yes, it's a two way street, not just animals sustaining plants or plants sustaining animals!
The animals of the rainforest would not be healthy without the plants of the rainforest and the plants of the rainforest would no longer flourish without the help of the animals.
How does it all work together to create the unique food web we find in the rainforest? Tropical rainforests are one of the most fascinating and varied ecosystems on the planet.
The Amazon rainforest in Brazil has thousands of species of birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. It makes sense then that each of these critters depends on something to stay alive, right?
Sunlight is where the food web truly begins! Without sunshine, plants wouldn't grow, right? Plants need the sun to photosynthesize or grow properly. Healthy plants then provide food for animals in the rainforest.
The leaves of plants and the fruit on plants are food for animals like leafcutter ants, opossum, tree kangaroos, and a host of insect species.
The fruit is eaten by herbivores like monkeys, apes, deer, and sloths. Insects and birds enjoy eating fruit from the plants too. Even the fish swimming in the Amazon River eat fruit that falls from the trees into the river!
Plants are important to the delicate ecosystem all the way down to the roots of rainforest plants. They are food for small insects like beetle larvae and spiders. Pretty neat, right?
Snails, bandicoots, kangaroos, fish, echidnas, small reptiles, and frogs fit into this category of herbivores as well.
Smaller animals, like skinks and birds also depend on insects, a source of meat, to survive. Other small carnivores in this level of the food web include frogs, snakes, rodents, owls, platypus, dunnarts, kookaburras, and quolls.
This is the most complex level of the tropical rainforest food web because these larger animals not only eat meat, but can also eat plants in their diet too. Animals included in this level are feral dogs, crocodiles, feral cats, pythons, and dingoes.
Think of the largest and most fierce animals in the rainforest and this is where they fit into the food web. Jaguars, huge pythons, tigers, crocodiles, vultures, owls, and eagles are some of the most feared and dangerous predators in the rainforest.
The indigenous people of the rainforest are also included in this level of the food web, for they too depend on the plant and animal life in the rainforest to survive.
A food web is very different than a food chain. Think of it this way: a chain has links that go in a line, one after another. The most basic food chain is described as large animals eat small animals and small animals eat smaller animals and insects and so forth.
Food webs are much more complicated, which makes them much more interesting. Imagine a spider web in your mind. It has many threads going in different directions and sometimes the threads overlap one another.
It's very much like that in the rainforest too and as you begin to understand how it works, you'll see what we mean by the spider web analogy.
Large animals eat small animals and then small animals eat smaller animals and insects. Once any size animal dies, it becomes food for the scavengers of the rainforest.
The remains of dead animals break down into nutrients that feed the plants of the rainforest floor. The cycle begins all over again with plants providing food for the animals.
It's very simple really! Animals rely on plants so they have food to eat. Plants count on animals spreading their pollen and seeds around the rainforest so that plants can pollinate and new plants can spring up in new locations.
Bats, wasps, moths, and beetles are a few of the animals that unknowingly carry pollen from one plant to another.
What do you think happens when a capybara eats fruit with seeds inside? The seeds travel through the capybara's system and are excreted onto the ground and many times that seed sprouts into a new plant!
Due to the high humidity and heat in the rainforest, dead animals decompose rather quickly, providing nutrients to the plants, and then the plants grow pretty quickly to begin the cycle all over again.
Here are some interesting examples of the food web in the rainforest.
Isn't the tropical rainforest food web fascinating? It's so complex that many aspects of it are still being studied. New discoveries are uncovered every day!