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The specialization of various species in a given environment is a central function that promotes the reproduction and maintenance of different organisms in tropical rainforests. In the case of single species or groups of individuals, the nesting process is very obvious and many studies relate tropical forest flora and fauna to environmental factors, including soil chemistry, elevation, temperature, exposure to moisture, and light patterns. In his thesis, Whitmore recognizes that the tropical rainforest is made up of diverse organisms that coexist in their niche, which has been enabled by multiple modes of survival. These include specialization in time and space, food preferences, and controlled carrying capacity. This phenomenon is evident in the movie, the Avatar, in which the interconnectedness of species in the tropical rainforest, Australia, is revealed.
One of the modes of survival in tropical rainforests is specialization in time and space. According to Whitmore (2006), the ecosystem operates efficiently since some of the fauna are active during the day while others during the night since they share the same canopy (68). In the case of the Borneo rainforest, the mammals and birds, squirrels, and invertebrates have all developed specific niches in particular space and time. In Bukit Timah forest in Singapore, the existing cryptozoans move either in the morning or evening from the soil to feed on the canopy and get back to the foot of the trees where they are awaited by other species like scorpion, spider, and frog (Whitmore 2006, p. 69). During the day, the species are replaced by other organisms like the flying lizard and insects. In the case of space occupation, some animal species occupy the forest floor while others would take the position of understory, the canopy level, and above the canopy.
The aspect of space and time specialization has been explored in the film, Avatar. The species found in Pandora (moon supporting life) has variety of flora and fauna. One of the creatures, direhorse, is a gray-sinned animal that resembles a horse and is hexapodal. They exist during the day, and are used by the Na’vi for hunting due to their bioluminescent nature (Cameroon 2009). Another animal existing during the day is the mountain banshee which is also used to hunt from the air. The space occupation has also enabled coexistence. Below the canopy, various deadly animals roam around including the packs of viperwolves that are dangerous to humans and the natives. Jack Sally is attacked by the viperwolves when he goes to the jungle during the night; this resulted from the fact that the humans tried to invade the space and time of the species (Cameroon 2009). There are also the hammerhead titanotheres and the thanator considered to be the most terrifying creatures in Pandora; since the fauna exist in different spaces, their co-existence is assured.
Competition among the tropical rainforest species is minimized through food preference. The animal inhabitants have evolved to share the existing food resources in the forests. According to Whitmore (2006), the neotropical bats are the most complex assemblages with over 50 species co-existing in the tropical rainforest (70). In the Barro Colorado Island in Panama, there are 9 different food guilds with specific species specialized as feeders. In each guild there are different sizes of food particles which relates to the body weight of the organisms. To further illustrate this, Whitmore (2006) refers to the 5 nocturnal species of lorises in Central Africa including potto bush-babies, and angwantibo which are able to minimize competition by partitioning both space and food (p. 69). In the canopy, the bush-babies feed on fruits while the potto feed on plant gums. The other lorises species feed on the undergrowth as well as insects.
The feeding system in Pandora has also promoted co-existence among the different species. The Natives, Na’vi, for instance, are hunters and gatherers who practice simple form of agriculture. They bring together plants which they treat using pheromones and natural agents for healthier growth for feeding. They also feed on animals which they hunt during the day including slinger, stingbat, Teylu and Glow Worms (Cameroon 2009). The Viperwolves and the thanator are nocturnal carnivorous hunters within a territory of about 480 kilometers within the Pandora. With their strong jaws that can crush bones or stones, they are able to exert pressure on their prey (Cameroon 2009). Additionally, the direhorse possess think antennae emerging from both sides of the skull which are used to feed on the nectar of flowers as well as on tree barks and shrubs. As such, the variable food preferences ensure that competition among the species in the tropical rainforest is controlled.
The carrying capacity of the tropical rainforest also influences the co-existence of the species. The numbers of organisms in the forest ecosystem is usually controlled by various factors including food availability. According to Whitmore, data collected from the rainforests show that periodically animals may go hungry while plants may dry up due to the unfavorable climate. In the Cocha Cashu area of Manu National Park, organisms subdivide the available resources to ensure they co-exist (Whitmore 2006, p. 71). In the forest, dominant mammals are frugivores which contribute to the total vertebrate biomass. During the lean period when there are few fruits and vegetation, the frugivores are forced to migrate to other habitat to alter their diet. This is also observed in other primates that shift to different foods to survive. IN the South American forests, figs and palms are used for feeding during famine and have always been considered important in the conservation of the forests.
In Avatar, the main issue portrayed is the carrying capacity of species within the Pandora ecosystem. Humans have come to invade the tropical rainforest which is inhabited by the Na’vi and other animals. Although they attempt to displace the natives, humans find the process very difficult (Cameroon 2009). They attempt to take over the land of the “aliens” in order to explore their interest, obtaining a mining area in which they will attain their capitalist interest. The humans head a killing machine that is aimed at eliminating all the natives and the harmful creatures (Cameroon 2009). This struggle for occupation in the natural land is as a result of the limited carrying capacity, and as such, only the fittest species will be able to survive.
In summary, Whitmore’s textbook relate to the movie, Avatar. Both the text and the film address the tropical rainforest ecosystem. It is revealed that the forest consist of various plants and animals species that depend on one another in order to exist. In both cases, there are different flora forming canopy; this is consisted of the undergrowth, shrubs, branches, and the canopy. The co-existence of the species is as a result of the various factors including specialization in time and space, food preferences, and controlled carrying capacity. Through these control mechanisms, the original organisms and the natives continue to exist in the ecosystem.
Cameroon, J. (2009). Avatar. Lightstorm Entertainment.
Whitmore, T. C. (2006). An introduction to tropical rain forests. Oxford [u.a.], Oxford Univ. Press.
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