Channel Billed Toucan
The Channel Billed Toucan is one of several large, fruit-eating species in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest that helps disperse large seeds over wide distances by swallowing them and then excreting them elsewhere. As these birds vanish, trees are evolving smaller seeds, according to research published May 31, 2013 in the journal Science.
The Yellow-Legged Thrush (Turdus flavipes) replaces toucans and other birds as the main seed disperser in some areas of the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. The thrushes are too small to swallow large palm tree seeds.
A Yellow-Legged Thrush eats fruits from a palm tree. These small-beaked birds eat and disperse only small seeds.
A toucanet eats a palm fruit in Brazil's Atlantic forest. Toucanets, like toucans and other large birds, disperse big seeds over wide distances.
The piping guan or jacutinga is the largest avian bird in the Atlantic Forest.
Palm fruit (left) and seeds from Euterpe edulis. Palm seeds vary widely in size.
The palm (Euterpe edulis) relies on birds to disperse its seeds.
The Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil.
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Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.