: Strangler fig tree
Habitat: South and Central America, also Asia
Adaptations: Strangler fig trees reach sunlight in shady jungles by starting near the top! Birds, bats, and monkeys eat ripe figs, dropping the seeds onto treetops. Landing on high branches, the seeds shoot roots down to the forest floor. These roots slowly "strangle" the older tree by soaking up more of the water and nutrients from the ground.
Role in habitat: Figs ripen year-round, feeding animals in drier seasons when other foods are scarce.
Threat: Though still common, fig trees are often killed by loggers who want the big trees under them.
Species: Yellowbilled Hornbill
Habitat: African jungles and prairies
Adaptations: Its sharp, curved beak lets it easily scoop up swarms of termites, bite into jumping grasshoppers, or feed on nectar — a sweet liquid found inside many flowers.
Role in habitat: Birds spread pollen from flower to flower as they feed. After a flower gets dusted by this yellow powder, it can make seeds. Birds also help plants by eating their fruits and pooping out the seeds. New plants grow where the seeds land.
Threat: People buy West African birds for pets. New York state made that illegal, other states may do the same. This species may survive because it lives on prairies as well as in rain forests.
Species: Rafflesia (Raff-Lees-ee-uh)
Habitat: Malaysia, Indonesia, other Asian rainforests
Adaptations: This meter (three-foot) wide flower sets the record for the world's largest bloom — and the stinkiest. It's called "stinking corpse lily" because it smells like rotting meat! Some flies and beetles love rotting meat. Hoping for a meal, they creep into the bizarre blossom and spread its pollen.
Stranger still, rafflesia plants have no stems, leaves, or roots. The seeds only sprout (start growing) when animal hooves crush them into certain rainforest vines. The massive flower soaks up water and nutrients right from the vine!
Role in habitat: Small animals, like squirrels and mice, love to munch on the melon-sized brown fruit that each rafflesia makes. Scientists believe some Asian people use this plant as medicine, but they haven't investigated it yet!
Threat: These flowers are so rare that it wouldn't take much for them to go extinct. Governments in Malaysia and Indonesia now protect areas where rafflesia is found.