The rainforest floor is an abundant source of food for animals that are prepared to forage for it.

The floor is full of roots, tubers, rhizome and aboveground shoots.

Millions of ants, termites, spiders, land crabs, beetles, mollusks, earthworms and many other invertebrates live on or near the soil surface.

Insectivores, such as the gymnure, or moonrat of Southeast Asia, the tenrec of Madagascar and the armored shrew of the Congo, have many teeth. This allows them to feed on a mixed diet of invertebrates that range earthworms to land crabs, and occasionally fish. All of these animals tend to have spiny hairs.

Termites are one of the most common animals on the forest floor, and they constitute most of the diet of a number of specialized anteating mammals.

In South America, some anteaters have adapted to an arboreal life, pursuing their quarry up into the trees.

However, the largest anteater remains a floor dweller. The giant anteater may be up to 6 feet (1.8m) long. It has a long tongue coated with sticky saliva that it uses to gather up insects.

Tapirs have rounded, sturdy bodies and tapering snouts, which make it easy for them to move through vegetation.

They live singly or in pairs.

Tapirs are good swimmers and spend much of their lives in or near water.

There are three species of tapir in South America and one from the tropical rainforests of Malaysia and Sumatra.

Although they originated in the northern hemisphere when its climate was tropical, tapirs now live in two widely separated places that were formerly part of a continuous distribution.

Tapirs provide evidence that the American and Asian continents were once joined together by the Bering Strait landbridge.

Convergent Evolution


Some animals that live on the rainforest floor have evolved separately. However, appear to be similar because they share the same food sources.

These are examples of convergent evolution.

For example, both the armadillos of the New World and the pangolins of the Old World have armor-plated backs, massive foreclaws and long, thin snouts.

The pangolin has no teeth, but possesses a tongue that may be up to 12 inches (30cm) long. The pangolin scoops up insects with its tongue, and then swallows them whole.

The armadillo has more teeth than any other land mammal-up to 100. However, the armadillo's teeth often wear out before the animal is old, and they appear not to be particularly functional. Even though the armor-plating devices of the two creatures differ in appearance and structure, they serve the same protective purpose.

Pigs in the Old World feed primarily upon underground tubers. In the Amazon rainforest, pigs are replaced by two species of peccary.

Pigs and peccaries have adapted to a similar set of conditions in different parts of the world. Both have shovel-like snouts that can be used as powerful diggers, and both live in large herds.


While animals are digging for food, they are vulnerable to surprise attacks from predators such as tigers, pumas or jaguars.

The smaller, rat-sized animals hide in roots and crevices when a predator is nearby.

Several of the larger species, such as the peccary and the giant forest hog, avoid danger by feeding in groups. As the group feeds, one or two individuals stand watch.