Secrets of the Rainforest

The rainforest is the world’s richest and oldest ecosystem. The species found in the rainforest have developed and adapted to their surroundings for millions of years. The results are amazing!

The mighty Rafflesia flower disguises itself as a stinking cadaver and fools blowflies in order to spread its pollen.

Save the Rainforests!

Seed Elevator

After a successful trip to the toilet, the sloth begins its long journey back up into the trees. It is highly likely that it has picked up a few stowaways by then – seeds that have become entangled in the long fur. The seeds catch a ride with the sloth up into the tree crown where they find light, water and nourishment they need to spire.

The sloth hangs upside-down under the branches and is as such well protected from aerial attacks. Its fur grows from the belly towards the back so that rainwater is easily run off. The fur can be full of algae – coloring the sloth green! This excellent camouflage color and the slow movements combined makes the sloth hard to spot. The sloth is actually a pretty hardy animal, whether it comes to jaguar teeth, eagle claws, or falls from great heights.

The rainforests and its creatures are fantastic and amazing!

Sloths can achieve maximum speeds of 0,020 kph. Photo: Shutterstock

At Ease!

Since the sloth’s diet mainly consists of leaves low in nutrition, it’s important for the animal to eat a lot and move as little as possible. The sloth stays in one spot until it has digested the last of the leaves around it into a porridge. A full stomach can make up as much as a third of its body weight. The stomach is divided into four parts and the food can take as much as a month to make its way through the digestive system and out of the body.

But sometimes, you just have to go. Even though the sloth eats, sleeps, mates and gives birth up in the trees, it has to make its way down to the ground to go to the toilet about once a week. Moving down from the trees takes time and is not without its dangers. The curved claws are poorly suited for walking on the ground, and on top of that, the going is incredibly slow. On the ground, the sloth is easy prey for predators, such as jaguars and large eagles.

The indigenous peoples of the Amazon rainforest, who in certain places name the sloth “ai-ai” due to the sorrowful screams the animal makes, are not interested in the sloth for food. The meat is as tough as rubber, and the long and tangled fur is suitable for…. well, nothing but a sloth.


The sloth moves slowly from branch to branch, munching on leaves. The weekly trip to the toilet is a challenge…….

The sloth spends most of its time hanging from a branch in the rainforest, munching on leaves. Its powerful, curved claws provide a firm grip, also when asleep. A sloth can sleep for up to 20 hours a day!

Eat, sleep and taking it easy. This algae-clad charmer is definitely the slowest animal in the rainforest.

Blowflies seek toward the interior of the flower to lay their eggs. The flies are lured into laying their eggs in small cavities under the round disc seen in the center of the flower.

Appealing “Cadaver”

Soon, a swarm of blowflies gather, obviously strongly attracted to the flower. They are looking for a suitable place to lay their eggs. In a large cadaver, larvae and maggots have optimal conditions in which to develop. Each Rafflesia is either a male or a female, and in order to reproduce, the male flower has to fool a fly into transporting its pollen to a flower of the opposite sex. The blowflies find their way into the flower through the large opening. Inside the flower, they find a large disc covered by spikes which are suitable resting spots for the flies.

The flies quickly probe further into the flower, down into the dark reaches of the underbelly of the disc inside the flower. Along the edges underneath the disc, the flies find small, narrow cavities they just barely manage to squeeze themselves into. Once in the cavities, the blowflies get their backs covered in a transparent, sticky substance that contains pollen if the plant is a male. Hopefully, the flies will then fly off, find a female flower, crawl into the flower and transfer the pollen.

After a few days, the flower collapses and dies. Rafflesia flowers are hard to find due to the destruction of the rainforests and the difficulty of the pollination process.

A Completely Normal Pregnancy

Rafflesia is special in more than one way. The plant does not have any leaves, stems nor real roots. It leaches itself onto a particular vine. It starts as a small bud that gets all its nourishment from the vine, growing slowly but surely over the course of weeks and months. People familiar with the plant say that it takes about nine months for the bud to develop into a flowering plant. A completely normal pregnancy.

The fully-fledged, round bud resembles a dark head of cabbage, which then one night decides to unfold. During the course of a few hours, the huge flower spreads out across the forest floor. The thick “leaves” have colors and textures resembling rotting meat. When the warmth of the sun strikes the forest the next day, the flower starts to give out an unpleasant odor. It presents itself in a morbid disguise, a large, stinking cadaver.


The world’s largest flower is over a meter in diameter. It’s also quite meaty and it stinks. For a few days, it plays the part of a cadaver on the forest floor and attracts lots of blowflies. Then it collapses onto itself and changes into a dark mass.

It lives in the tropical forests in South East Asia and is called Rafflesia, named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the British governor of Sumatra in the early 18th century. He is best known as the founder of the city of Singapore and from the fashionable Singaporean hotel that bears his name.

In 1818, Sir Raffles led an expedition to Sumatra, amply assisted by the biologist Dr. Joseph Arnold. Their local guide led the two Englishmen to quite a revelation in the rainforest, a flower known to, and used by, indigenous people for millennia. The strange and impressive flower naturally caused quite a bit of excitement and was named after both of the “discoverers”, Rafflesia arnoldi.

A small Wagler's pit viper (Trimeresurus Wagleri) snakes its way over a larger snake. Photo: Thomas Marent

Phyllomedusa hypochondrialis in acting mode.


The frog species Phyllomedusa hypocondrialis plays dead when feeling threatened and gets its name from this trait. By laying “lifelessly” on the ground, it protects itself from being attacked.

The bluff works! At least on some predators. An attack can be triggered by movement, and the attacker can lose sight of the prey if the prey lies perfectly still. Another possibility is that the predator instinctively perceives the prey as a cadaver and loses interest.

A number of very different animal species use this tactic. This phenomenon is seen amongst vertebrates such as frogs and snakes and is common amongst insects. The stench released from its open mouth helps convince the predator that this is indeed an unappetizing cadaver.

Read more about the rainforest and the threats it faces 

A greatly magnified section of the wing of a morpho butterfly. The wing is covered by small shells with a microstructure that reflects blue light. The interplay of reflected light creates a strong metallic sheen that changes according to the angle from which the wing is viewed.

Companion to the Indigenous Peoples

Because the large morpho butterflies often fly along the river banks, they are easily seen by people travelling along the rivers. In the Amazon, the rivers serve as transportation arteries, and indigenous peoples that live in the depths of the rainforest have naturally known of these butterflies since time immemorial. These large and beautiful creatures are seen as companions by many indigenous groups and are regarded as sacred. They are a piece of heaven brought down to earth in the form of a beautiful butterfly.

When the morpho butterfly rests, it folds its wings up over its body, making it much harder to see. The undersides of the wings include brown and gray camouflage colors that blend in with the surroundings. Should an insect-eating bird discover the butterfly, it has an additional trick up its sleeve. The undersides of the wings also contain several markings resembling eyes. This has a deterrent effect on would-be predators and is a common defensive measure seen in many butterfly species.


Large butterflies with shimmering blue wings fly along the rivers of the South American tropics. These butterflies are considered sacred by certain indigenous groups.

The male of the species Morpho constantly flies back and forth along the rivers, patrolling his well-defined stretch of riverbank, defending his territory against other males. Intruders are forcefully chased away as part of the competition to find a mating partner and reproduce its genes.

A Living Blue Light

When a male morpho butterfly comes fluttering, the shimmering, blue wings can be seen at distances of several hundred meters. Each time a male beats its wings, it sends out a striking flash of blue light that is eye-catching. This is precisely the effect needed to keep other males at a safe distance. The effect of the color blue on a Morpho is striking. If you see one of them and start waving a blue handkerchief, or anything blue for that matter, it will quickly land on the object to investigate the “intruder”.

For insect-eating birds, the strong color serves as a warning. The butterflies are actually poisonous and inedible, as are many brightly-colored insects. Birds quickly learn to interpret this signal and avoid eating them.

Morpho butterflies are big. Their wing span is between 75-200 millimeters.

Many of the secrets of the rainforest have been given to us by the indigenous peoples of the rainforest. They are intimately connected to the rainforests, and they have a deep knowledge of nature. Here, we will show you some of the fantastic and amazing life-forms in the rainforest, but also how fragile life in the rainforest is.

Here are some of the many secrets of the rainforest!