A white-throated toucan (Ramphastos tucanus) female captured in Ecuador. Photo by: Kimberly Holbrook.
New research shows that the toucans of South America and the hornbills of Asia and Africa are vital seed dispersers for tropical forests. Now known to be marathon fliers, these big fruit-eating birds are capable of bringing seeds to new areas, spreading genetic diversity and aiding burgeoning populations. Unfortunately deforestation and hunting has put these special species—as well as other seed dispersers—at risk.
To read more about the role of long-distance seed dispersers on tropical ecosystems: Long-distance seed dispersal and hunting, an interview with Kimberly Holbrook.