The Understory layer, or strata, of tropical rainforest vegetation lies between the Canopy layer, where there is plenty of sunlight, and the Forest Floor layer, where there is almost none. When the weather is very hot and wet as it is in the Understory layer, conditions are just right for an abundance of insects, mosquitoes, and certain types of flora.
The interesting facts listed below are written in a kid-friendly format that focuses on what animals and flora are found in the understory layer and why most of them are camouflaged, as well as a description of some of the common plants found in this layer.
Understory Layer Animal Facts
- Countless insects can be found in the understory layer including bees, stick insects, bullet ants, beetles, and butterflies. Many insects are preyed upon by numerous birds, geckos and monitors.
- Bats, monkeys, snakes, lizards, jaguars and frogs are some of the common animals found at this layer. Many of them spend a lot of time in the tree branches either living off the insects or looking for prey below.
- Camouflage is often used by various species of reptiles that live in the Understory layer. It provides protection from predators by helping them blend into their surroundings. Since competition for food is fierce, it also helps them sneak up on unsuspecting prey without being seen until it is too late.
- The spots on the jaguar resemble a leaf-like pattern and when waiting in the branches, help it to stay camouflaged. It then drops from above onto its prey below.
- Tree frogs and Salamanders require a lot of humidity to keep their skin from drying out so they do well in the Understory Layer.
- There are approximately 150 species of butterflies that live in the Understory Layer.
Understory Layer Plant Facts
- Plant growth in the Understory Layer is limited to mostly smaller trees, low lying shrubs, ferns, climbing plants and native bananas. Research indicates that plants do not usually grow past 12 feet (3.6 meters) in this layer.
- There are a relatively small amount of flowering plants in the Understory Layer. The plants that do flower are often brightly colored so they can be seen easily in such surroundings by pollinators, and strongly scented so they can attract pollinators with their smell.
- This layer of the rainforest produces many popular house plants. Zebra plants, Ferns, Philodendrons and Prayer plants are among some of house plants from this layer that do well in dimly lit conditions.
- Tree trunks in this layer tend to be thin because they are usually younger, smaller trees growing in this layer. All shapes, size, colors and textures of tree trunks can be found here. Moss, fungus and algae are usually found growing on the trees, often giving the appearance of different shades or colors on the same tree.
- Climbing plants also do well in this environment. They begin by germinating on the Forest floor and then use a host tree to facilitate a steady upwards growth until they reach the adequate sunlight they require.