Samwise Gamgee





What exactly is a rain forest, you say? Well, on the outside, a rain

forest has a wall averaging 20 feet thick that is made of a tangle of

vines that love light. This wall seals off the interior creating the

illusion that the whole jungle is this thick. But if you find an

animal path or stream to follow, you can slip through and enter this

mysterious world.

Once you're inside, you can look up and see a tree canopy that's as high

as a 17 story building! And it's pretty dark too, a perpetual twilight.

Only 1% of the sunlight ever actually touches the floor of the forest. And

moonlight, even a full moon, doesn't get through at all. You'd better have

a flashlight with you if you plan on reading any comics.

Rain forests have different layers that support different animals and

insects. Some plants and animals occupy specific layers, while others

live and feed wherever they can. I live in the lower canopy of the South

American rain forest because a lot of the fruit I like to eat is found there.

The tallest trees in the canopy layer grow up to 200 feet high. Some of the

trees that poke through (called the "emergents") have been known to grow as

high as 270 feet. It is not uncommon for the expansive umbrella crown of an

emergent tree to cover an entire acre. Now there's a good spot for a

treehouse.

Many types of indigenous people live in rain forests. The environment

is perfect for tribes of hunter-gatherers. Local materials are used to

make their blow guns, spears, and arrows. The forest also provides building

and roofing materials, wild cotton for clothing, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics,

and more. In fact, just about every need can be met by the rain forest. For

these people, the rain forest is like living in a gigantic mall.

Amazonian deep-forest Yanomamo are a group of forest people that can

literally run up heavy trunked emergent trees (over 200 feet) without

breaking a sweat. It's because of their remarkably wide feet, which

also have advantages running around the muddy rain forest floors.

The Pygmies are a tribe of honey gatherers that rely almost exclusively on

the help of a bird called the Greater Honeyguide to direct them to the

beehives. This little bird leads the Pygmies with its rasping, churring

chatter and its white outer tail feathers to point out the proper tree. The

bird lives on beeswax, so after the Pygmies climb the tree with a bundle of

smoking leaves to put the bees to sleep, they take the honey and leave the

beeswax behind as a reward for the bird.

Here you'll find bats with wingspans up to 5.5 feet, moths with wingspans

of 12 inches, frogs so big they could eat rats, and rats themselves weighing

up to 100 pounds. Let's take a closer look at just a few of the interesting

animals and insects that live in the rain forrest.

Piranha, The piranha is a small fish that is activated into a feeding

frenzy by the smell of blood. Their teeth are so sharp that they can strip

a 100 pound animal to the bone in a minute. No telling what they could do

to a person unlucky enough to go for a swim at the wrong time!

Large electric eels live in tropical rivers. Their bodies can generate

enough electricity to knock a person senseless and, in some cases, can

cause drowning. "Shocking" ... but true.

Anacondas can even swallow a crocodile. The anaconda is a water boa and

it is the largest snake in the world at 37.5 feet long and weighing over

500 pounds. They've been known to eat people now and then, although they

don't make a regular diet of humans. Boa, oh boa that's a lotta snake!

In every rain forest there are many kinds of plants. Many, many, many

kinds of plants. In fact, inside a single hectare (2.47 acres) you can

find up to 750 types of trees and 1,500 types of plants! But this entire

range of species can easily be broken down into four categories, grouped

by how they take up nutrients:



* Carnivorous plants eat small animals.

* Saprophytic plants eat decaying matter.

* Parasitic plants take nutrients directly from other living plants.

* Autotrophs take nutrients