This is one of a series of questions centered around living on a giant tree. The setting/scenario is described below:

In my fantasy world, elves live on a giant tree, very similar in structure to a Banyan Tree. The elves live on the branches of this tree, which average ~300 feet wide. The tree itself is wide rather than high, only extending 600-1000 feet up. The branches are supported by massive aerial roots, as they are in older banyan trees. The elves can descend the trees to the massive fog-covered swamp below, but rarely do, meaning they have to live off of the tree entirely.

This question deals with the animals that might live on such a tree. In an answer here, @apaul34208 mentioned that redwoods have been known to create bog environments high in their branches, supporting mollusks, crustaceans, and other animals. If a mollusk can get up there, what else could?

What kind of animals could one find on my giant tree?


  • The planet is earth like. There is no strange gravity play going on to support the tree. It should be able to support itself via aerial roots, especially since it is not very tall (just really wide).
  • The climate is warm-temperate. Think north-California. Disregard how unlikely it is for a Banyan-type tree to grow in this climate.
  • The base of the tree is nearly vertical. It shouldn't be a problem for creatures like monkeys, but would be impassable for something like a horse.
  • The tree branch supports all manner of flora, including other trees (regular sized), and will have several sources of water collected in pools at various points.
  • I'm looking for animals we know, but I am open to a little speculation on variations if you're up for it. As long as it make biological sense and isn't too wild.
  • One animal I desperately need is something to replace the horse. There is no way a horse is getting on this tree, so I need something that can travel roughly as fast, can carry at least one man, and is tamable. And obviously can get on the tree in the first place. If this creature is impossible, then I will post a new question with a creature design.
  • $\begingroup$ Last point, nothing exists that can do that. You'll need to create a new creature. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Apr 15 '17 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ Additional question for some clarification, what is the climate? I assume tropical? $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Apr 15 '17 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Mormacil I've edited the question with additional details. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Apr 15 '17 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ do you need your horse to move that fast IN the trees, like branch to branch, because there are big treeclimbers and there are fast climbers but their are no big fast treeclimbers. Of course on trees as large as you have you might have something like a mountain goat the evolved to live on them, sticking to the largest branches. Normal tree would not be enough for a specialized climbing ungulates but yours could be big and connected enough to probably support their population. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 17 '17 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ @John Something that can traverse the surface of the branch quickly, not necessarily go swinging between them. Remember that the branches are mostly flat and wide. A horse could do it; they just couldn't get on the tree in the first place. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Apr 17 '17 at 16:20

Anything that can fit in a tree can be in a tree. Birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans. Maybe not fish.

Maybe yes fish! enter image description here

I am not sure how Muddy Mudskipper here (from https://laurennalls.files.wordpress.com) will contribute to the story but it is a fish and it can climb trees.

Re your horse equivalent: I propose orangutans.

enter image description here

Orangutans already carry baby orangutans thru the trees. Scale up your orangutan until it is big enough to carry your elf. Plus you could have them be semi-intelligent, which is good for the story.

At every right turn, the riding elf must declare "Right Turn, Clyde". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i98QrSSHxo4

Last: spiders. I was thinking about sleeping in a tree and thinking about how the mosquitos would chow down on my tenderness. But what if the sleeping area were surrounded by spiderwebs? These are just regular little spiders, no Shelob business. You lift up a branch and move some webs out of the way, climb in and sack out. Mosquitoes that smell you and head in for a sip encounter your leggy friends. Everyone wins!

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for somehow incorporating a 1970s movie reference into all of this. $\endgroup$ – cobaltduck Apr 17 '17 at 17:54

Like you said above, monkeys would be a good option. Obviously all sorts of birds, bats, bugs, too but that’s the easy stuff.

OK, so you say a monkey could get up the trunk… but a horse can’t. Hmm. How far up is the lowest branch? Are there knots or other ridges in the bark that could be used to gain some purchase?

For the horse replacement, I’m thinking somewhere along the lines of He-Man Battle-Cat. Cats, especially big ones, are often fairly decent at ascending trees, though I don’t know how they would fare on your giant one.

Another option might be some crazy variation of… a sloth. Yeah, naturally they’re not very fast, but maybe they evolved, or the elves found a way to motivate them.

Just how fantastical is your tree? If it’s not too far fetched, and your elves aren’t too heavy, you could pull a Legolas and have giant hawks as your mode of transport. That might be a little far-fetched.

You could possibly say that an ibex or two might have been able to find a way up the trunk. They’re very surefooted mountain-goaty things, so maybe they could work as a horse replacement.

Finally, what about not having a horse replacement at all? I know you said “there’s no way…” but what if the elves did devise a way to bring horses up from down below? A system of pulleys and ropes? Crazy, but possible, I guess. And really they’d only need a few breeding pairs, so altogether not impossible.

  • $\begingroup$ Oddly, a sloth-type creature is what I had in mind as well. The trunk is not straight vertical, but is at a 70 degree angle before it starts leveling out, at around 400 feet. There are no other branches (the banyan is one of those trees where the branches sprout out of the ground, basically bypassing a traditional trunk). There are plenty of footholds, and I suppose an ibex-type creature is not out of the question. I hadn't considered that. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Apr 16 '17 at 4:55
  • $\begingroup$ I agree about big cats as this could also add a danger to the elves l think since you suggested Northern California like weather you should go with the snow leopard. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_leopard $\endgroup$ – Cameron Leary Apr 16 '17 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ All big cats on Earth lack the strength to carry a person on their back, even just a child. Much like dogs. Horses are bred special that they can carry something this close to their weigth on their back without issue. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Apr 17 '17 at 12:59

Based on what you have said something like a mountain goat would be your best bet. They have been domesticated and live in a wide variety of environments. They could easily get into the trees. Just breed them for size or make your species a little bigger than normal and you have your pack animal.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is great for the horse, but what other animals would one find up there in general? That was actually the main question. :) $\endgroup$ – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Apr 17 '17 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ We ll that will depend more on what is available, for instance in north america you would never have primates no matter how much you want them. So really you have to consider what is available. I recommend looking at arboreal organisms on earth, which cover a huge range of organisms, with representatives from nearly every major group. By itself what could live on such a tree is to broad to to be answered here. Just a list of all the arboreal animals on earth would exceed the character limit for an answer. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 17 '17 at 17:15
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    $\begingroup$ @ThomasMyron Basically is it is smaller than a bread box, or can fly, or can climb it can make it into a forest ecosystem. If you have permanent lakes you will have fish. Your best bet may be to come up with a list of animals you want to use combined with a brief description of the ecosystem, then just post it as a question and ask if any of them are not feasible. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 17 '17 at 20:04

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