Vampire bats are native to South and Central America and are the only mammals to feed exclusively on blood. These bats are typically about 3 1/2 inches in length and feed at night by approaching their victims stealthily on all fours. Sensors on their nose detect heat pointing their razor sharp teeth to where the blood is closest to the surface. This bat's saliva has chemicals that prevent the blood from clotting while it feeds.
The golden poison dart frog is one of the most toxic animals on the planet and carries enough venom to kill ten grown men. They live in social groups and are dedicated caregivers to their offspring. Once their eggs hatch, the adult frogs carry their tadpoles into the canopy and deposit them in bromeliad tanks or water-filled tree holes. Upon maturity the parents will lead their froglets to an established social group.
Red eyed tree frogs utilize a technique called "startle coloration" to elude predators. Because most of their predators use vision as their primary sense, this technicolor frog may overwhelm their brains with too much information allowing the frog the extra moment it needs to escape. While sleeping, this frog reveals only its green body, but when awakened it flashes a confusing kaleidoscope of colors. In spite of its strong coloration, these frogs are not venomous.
The barred ant shrike specializes in following columns of army ants taking advantage of the prey that is disturbed. They are a terrestrial species typically found in pairs near the forest floor where their muted colors act as camouflage. Like other understory birds, they have a low-pitched call which travels farther through the dense vegetation. Insect eating birds, such as the ant shrikes, spend a lot of time foraging and are typically monogamous as they don't have time for courtship…
Because of the year round abundance of fruit, tropical forests have five times more large birds than temperate forests. Toucans are native to the Americas and form social groups to maximize foraging. They have the largest beaks relative to their of any birds and use them to eat large fruits swallowing them whole and regurgitating the seeds. Toucans use their large size and hefty bill to dominate food resources for their group.
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Leaf cutter ants are unique to the Americas and take advantage of what the forest has most to offer - foliage. They harvest leaves to bring back to their underground colonies which are then chewed and mixed with dung to feed their fungal gardens. Leaf cutters ants are the rainforest's dominant herbivore consuming and estimated 12-17% of its foliage each year. Next to humans, they create the largest complex societies on Earth.
Army ants are nomadic swarm feeders and move their nest, or bivouac, from place to place as they forage. They use chemical trails to form their raiding parties as the workers are blind or nearly blind depending on the species. They have special barbs on their legs that allow them to hook together to form their living nest or create bridges when needed. In some Neotropical areas they are considered a keystone species because of all the animal associates that depend on them to flush prey.
Like most ants, army ants are primarily female and have different castes which include the workers and the soldiers in addition to the queen. Soldiers are much larger with massive mandibles which they use for defense of the colony. Like other ants, army ants evolved from a wasp-like ancestor more than 100 million years ago and share the ability to combine their bite with formic acid resulting in a painful "sting."
Harpy eagles are the heaviest bird of prey in the world. They spend their lives in the forest canopy scanning for prey. As an apex predator, they consume some of the largest mammals of the forest including monkeys and sloths. Because of habitat loss, they are now nearly extinct in Central America.
Honduran white bats are unusual in that they modify their environment to form their roost. These small bats, which live in groups typically with one dominant male, will crease the stem of heliconia leaf so that it forms a tent-like structure. Their white color allows them additional camouflage from predators when in this position as sunlight penetrates the leaf dappling their fur with green light.
About half of all mammal species in the neotropics are bats. They are the only mammals capable of true flight and as such play an incredibly important ecological role in pollenating plants and keeping insect species from exploding. Bats are typically divided into two suborders: the megabats which have effective vision and feed primarily on fruit and microbats which rely on echolocation to find insects or small mammals.
Poison dart frogs are native to Central and South America. Their powerful alkaloid-based toxins which are stored in their skin glands prevent nerves from transmitting impulses, leaving the muscles in an inactive state of contraction. Interestingly poison dart frogs raised in captivity do not develop toxins leading scientists to believe that the frogs assimilate their poisonous compounds from plants or animals that they ingest.
Nototriton abscondens, or moss salamanders, live primarily in terrestrial and arboreal moss mats where they feed on tiny organisms such as springtails. They may have been one of the first animals to colonize land. Moss salamanders are lungless and breath through their skin which must stay moist.
Jaguars are the largest felines in the Western Hemisphere. Like many other cats, they are solitary nocturnal hunters and extremely territorial. It is considered a keystone species because of its role in stabilizing ecosystems by keeping populations of many other species in check. Jaguars use a stalk and ambush method of hunting and have extremely powerful bites which they use to pierce the skulls of their prey.
The Neotropical ecozone includes the largest concentration of tropical rainforests on Earth and is one of the most critical spheres of biodiversity. It encompasses Central and northern South America as well as parts of Mexico and Florida. This Pinterest board is a mosaic of Neotropical biodiversity with a special emphasis on Central America.
Metamorphosis is one of the great fascinations of nature and commonly used by Creationists to argue against evolution. Butterflies, such as this metallic mechanitis, go through complete metamorphosis in which they essentially digest themselves by releasing enzymes that dissolve their own tissues. During this process, highly specialized cells called imaginal discs - one for each of the body parts - survive to provide the essential blueprints for the butterfly's re-creation.