Cloud forest


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General Enviroment

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Cloud forests are amongst the most mysterious and exotic of *Planet name* environments. Their alien beauty and life diversity comes from their high, constant humidity and isolation, due to their location in mountain slopes, valleys and the deepest sections of rainforests. These conditions create the enveloping fog that gives them their name. In some cases the fog is seasonal, or varies daily; in others it is everlasting, covering their life in perpetual shadow. The temperature is often high, being located in equatorial zones by the most part; however, temperate cases do exist. Plants and animals have adapted to this eternal humidity; some plants don't even have roots, living completely from the fog. The lack of vision and poor smell due to the perpetual humidity makes these forests noisy; more than usual for rainforests. This doesn't mean that there aren't striking colors and smells to be found here though. The floor is often covered by vegetation and small creeks and ponds. Often cloud forests are contigous with swamps.

The largest cloud forests are found in the lowlands and mesas of the *Central continent* but are common all through the equator. The *crater lake system* for example, has unique life, long since extinct in other places.

Plant life

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Cloud forests are a heaven for plants that thrive in humidity. These include mosses, lichens, and in particular ferns. Tree ferns and mosses are a staple of cloud forests, and are one of the main characteristics that distinguish them from other forests. Other plants are of course common, of note are symbiotic orchids that have striking colors and aromas. The clicking flower of the *wester-central continent*has a particular adaptation: it has two opposing lumps of hard tissue, that periodically strike each other. The sound reverberates through the forest, attracting pollinators. Some inflorescence have their clicking times synchronized with each other: these are called orchestra flowers.

To produce the movement, clicking flowers use the same mechanism, and are in fact related, to carnivorous plants, that are abundant in these forests, and employ interesting mechanisms, such as secreting similar smells of females of certain species, or mimicking individuals of the prey species. Fungi, despite not being plants, are very common, and have a vital role in decomposing dead organisms and maintaining the soil fertile.

Invertebrates

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The diversity of invertebrates in cloud forests is simply staggering. The high oxygen content on the lowlands promoted the evolution of larger arthropods than usual. They can reach the size of small vertebrates on some cases. While larger, venomous spiders get the usual attention, some smaller spiders are very interesting; the Kingdom Spiders have a similar social structure to some insects, with a queen protected by workers and soldiers that take care of the young spiders. Their nests can be very large, covering entire trees. The Singing spiders have very complicated mating calls, that were mistook by early explorer as bird calls, until they discovered they came from tiny, colorful spiders. Both families are harmless to larger creatures, and native to the *central continent*.

Insects are as diverse as any rainforest, and to catalogue them is virtual madness. From idiriscent beetles on the *eastermost continent* to the impressive variety of rainbow butterflies on the *crater lake system*, the sheer number overwhelms entomologists. They are adapted to all niches and enviroments. Giant rhinoceros beetles do battle in the *east central continent* forest floor, while being hunted by bird sized greater dragonflies. Anthills often take entire trees as homes, and fog bees patrol the forest with their haunting buzzing sound.

Other invertebrates, such as nematodes and annellids, are also well represented, mostly as parasites and microfauna. Snails and slugs, some of them toxic, are either masterfully camouflaged, or painted in such a way that it would make their sea cousins proud. Crustaceans are unrrepresented, except for some small crabs and woodlice.

Fish

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Fish can be found in the creeks, ponds and marshes that cover some cloud forests surfaces. They are mostly small species, of muted colors (except for toxic ones), and some are even blind. A peculiar case is that of lung fish, that live in the greater rainforests of *central continent*. They can breath air for quite large intervals, and they use this to migrate from pond to pond: since the air is so humid, they seldom risk dissecation.

Amphibians and reptiles

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Amphibians are incredibly abundant in cloud forests. All cloud forests have frog and toads, and those of the *Southwestern Continent* have newts and salamanders. One thing that seems to have evolved independently is the ability of some frogs to use toxins from their diet as venom. This venom is so potent in some species, that a drop of it can kill 20 men. These poison dart frogs sport very bright colors, with wildly differing patterns, since they have nothing to fear from predators.

Reptiles of all sorts are common, in particular geckos and snakes. Snakes thrive in the dark environment, and have evolved quite sophisticated hunting techniques and more active lifestyles than their counterparts in drier climates. Monitor lizards are unique to the rainforests of *easternmost continent* and fill the niche of small predators, having catlike behavior and intelligence. In the *crater lake ecosystem*, ancient reptiles such as tuataras and other semiaquatic Rhynchocephalia still thrive. Snapping turtles are also common in the *Central continent* streams.

Birds

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Birds are as diverse as the forest surrounding them. Many just fly overhead: others do build their nest there, like hummingbirds. Parrots are diverse too: in the *Crater Lake*, some species of parrots have adapted to live in the forest floor, seeking shelter in fallen trees and hunting for large arthropods and fruits. In *Central Continent*, there are many species that retain claws on their wings, and at least one genus of toothed birds: they have no beak, but a toothed mouth like their dinosaur ancestors. In these same cloud forests, one can find the death songbirds: much like poison dart frogs, these tiny and colorful birds store toxins from the insects they eat, and are lethal to eat and even touch.

Mammals

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Small mammals are common through cloud forests. The ocelot is one of the most emblematic, living through the forests of the *Central continent* and filing the niches of small predator. The night cats are similar to the ocelot, but are completely black with prominent yellow eyes: they are often associated with spirits. Pangolins are a unique sight in the deepest jungles of the *Southeastern continent*: they are peaceful arboreal herbivores. And monkeys are found through all the continents of the equator: the golden monkeys and the blue face monkeys are some examples unique to the cloud forests of the *Central continent*

Cultures

Despite the alien, inaccessible and often unforgiving environment of cloud forests, many cultures live there. These include...