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Rainforests of the World 

March 15, 2010

Rainforest FAQs

If you’ve ever had any questions about our rainforest and the organisms that live there, this is YOUR blog post! The following questions are some of the most common that our biologists hear:

What is the temperature and the humidity in the rainforest?
We aim to keep temperatures between 75-80 F and humidity between 65-80%. The plants and animals in our exhibit depend on it!

Are the two strawberry dart frogs (Oophaga pumilio) next to the railing real?
Next to the railing: no. In our dart frog exhibit on the Costa Rica level: yes! As you walk up the rainforest ramp from the Borneo to the Madagascar level, you will see a mini exhibit which demonstrates how some animals in the rainforest have adapted to live amongst bromeliads. As the sign states, animals such as monkeys, birds and strawberry dart frogs utilize the water that accumulates in their cup and leaf axils. With a focus on strawberry dart frog reproduction, the exhibit shows that those small pools of water in bromeliads serve as excellent nursuries for strawberry dart frog tadpoles. During the Academy’s brief period at Howard Street, our strawberry dart frogs successfully bred that way!

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Here is a picture of one of our live strawberry dart frogs, which you may be able to find with a keen eye in our dart frog exhibit on the Costa Rica level:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Why are there different types of animals in one tank? Are the smaller animals food for the bigger animals?
Many of our exhibits house multiple species because that is how they occur in the wild. Although many animals have adapted to live in specific areas in a rainforest, there is usually overlap between different species. This is what allows them to be compatible in an exhibit. As long as those animals have enough space, hiding places, food and water, they seem to live just fine together. The animals in our terrariums are typically fed fruit flies, crickets, kingworms, silk worms and hornworms. The snakes in the rainforest are fed anoles, mice and young rats. The animals in our aquariums and the Flooded Amazon are fed fish flake and pellets, algae wafers, black and blood worms, brine shrimp, chopped fish and produce.

What do you feed the birds and the butterflies?
Our birds are fed a variety of fruits and vegetables, insects, pellet bird diet, seeds and nectar. Our butterflies drink nectar as well, which you can see when they insert their probosics into our flowers and nectar feeding stations. They use their proboscis like a straw to draw out liquids. Some of our butterflies also eat pollen. There are five feeding stations throughout the exhibit which we change twice daily. Check out this enthusiastic bird diet:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

What do the bats eat?
Our Lesser Dog Faced Fruit Bats (Cynopterus brachyotis) are provided with nectar, as well as a variety of fruits which include: bananas, melons, grapes, apples, pears and oranges. We also throw in a couple of veggies which they occasionally munch on. You may see them eating throughout the day on large chunks of fruit which hang from the vines in their cave, or using their furry bellies as plates to rest pieces of fruit on them as they hang and eat.

How long do the butterflies live?
Our butterflies live approximately 1-2 weeks as adults, but our Longwing species will live up to a few months as long as they have a pollen source.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Why do the macaws bicker with each other?
This is the case with all animals that establish hierarchy and territory, and parrots are one group of animals where bickering is a common and completely natural process. For the most part, these scuffles last only a couple of minutes and then both our macaws will resume preening, chewing, eating, etc. Often times you may see them preening each other or even regurgitating into each other’s mouths which is a sign of companionship:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

How many species of plants are in the rainforest?
There are several hundred species of plants in our rainforest… and counting!

What kind of tree is the one with green fruit?
We have two Saba Nut trees (Pachira insignis) in our rainforest exhibit which produce green football shaped fruit year-round. In its native habitat (Central and South America), the fruit are a food source for people and animals. It is said to have a mild peanut and chestnut flavor.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

What do you feed the Tropical Pitcher Plants?
We actually don’t feed them; our pitcher plants are trapping insects all on their own! Carnivorous plants have adapted to survive in low-nutrient environments and consume insects to obtain the nutrients they need. To learn more about how they trap prey, be sure to check out our enlarged pitcher plant replica across the elevators on the Borneo level.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

That fish is huge! What kind is it?
The largest fish we have in the Flooded Amazon is the Arapaima (Arapaima gigas). Ours are 6-7 feet long, although they can reach lengths up to 10 feet long. The longest lived Arapaima at the Academy lived to be 18 years old. Despite a diet primarily composed of fish, they have been known to be opportunistic predators and will eat just about anything that can fit in their mouths. An interesting fact about Arapaimas is that they are air breathers, and must come to the surface for oxygen every 10-20 minutes.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Photo by: Rachael Tom

We hope this gives you a little more insight about our awesome rainforest and those that dwell in it. If we haven’t answered one of your questions, please leave us a comment here and we’ll do our best to answer it!

Filed under: Birds,Butterflies,Fish,Herpetiles,Plants — rainforest @ 6:16 am

March 5, 2010

Lots of Color in the Rainforest!

Have you visited our rainforest lately? It took some time for our plants to settle in, but many of them are finally rooted in enough to begin flowering and fruiting. This picture was taken of our Brassia verrucosa just a couple of days ago:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Tucked in here and there between the green leaves and mosses are gems of elegant shape and delicate coloring.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Although we have several nectar feeding stations throughout the rainforest, we also have many plants such as Hamelia patens to provide a nectar meal for the butterflies. Our Costa Rica Level is the most popular hangout for many of our butterfly species which include Heliconius hecale:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Most of the plants in flower are on the vertical planted walls, scattered throughout the exhibit, specially designed to display the diversity of epiphytes that live in tropical rainforests. This is our Borneo planted wall which is home to many of our carnivorous pitcher plants:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Epiphytes, including most orchids, are plants that grow on other plants and use these plants for support to get closer to the light.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Here is Maxillaria sanguina, one of our orchids frequently in flower on the planted walls on Costa Rica level.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Next time you visit our rainforest be sure to scan all of the planters, planted walls and hanging vines. It takes a careful eye to spot everything from tiny 2 inch orchids, to occasional mushrooms!

Filed under: Plants — rainforest @ 6:59 pm

January 12, 2010

What’s in flower in the Tropical Rainforest?

Take a look at the big green vine overhanging the flooded forest tank. The Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia elegans) gets its name from the large maroon and white flowers it displays, which have a pipe-like shape. This vine is native to Brazil and is often in bloom in our rainforest.
Mottled Dutchman's Pipe

Photo by: Rachael Tom

The peach palm (Bactris gasipaes) has produced a few bunches of orange fruit. These fruits are eaten by macaws in the wild, but our macaws don’t seem to think they are tasty! They are used as food by the native peoples where it grows in the tropics of South and Central America, but it does require some preparation before eating.
Bactris gasiapes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Filed under: Plants — rainforest1 @ 10:01 am

January 8, 2010

Behind the scenes in the rainforest

There are many different aspects to the work that we do in the rainforest bola. Click below to check out a fantastic video produced by our Science In Action team and hear what the biologists have to say about the circle of life in this exhibit.


Behind the Scenes of the Academy’s Rainforest Exhibit from Science in Action on Vimeo.


Filed under: Birds,Butterflies,Fish,Herpetiles,Plants — rainforest1 @ 10:07 am
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The Rainforest Team


Academy biologists share the inside scoop on the Academy's 'Rainforest of the World' exhibit.

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