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A strange animal helps a strange plant

Scientists have discovered something about why the roots of a curious plant that grows only in one place in the world never touch the earth.

Zamia pseudoparasitica is a plant found only in western Panama. It belongs to an ancient plant family that includes species that can live up to 1,000 years. Plants in this family are similar to palm trees and ferns, but they are not. This particular plant differs from its congeners. It is the only one that does not grow out of the soil, but hangs – clinging to its roots – in other plants and trees, about 7-20 meters above the ground.

How does this plant live there in those treetops? How do you spread its seeds? To answer these questions, scientists set out to collect samples from the rainforest. They also set up game cameras to see which animals visited the plant and saw that only one visitor actually took the seeds: a skinny guppy bear, a small nocturnal lemur-like animal with a long bushy tail.

Researchers believe that the skinny bear takes seeds to burrow into trees or so-called seed banks, and thus the plant grows in the upper layer of the rainforest. To make sure this is the case, the researchers now want to identify and trace the seeds.

Read more: The secret of the unusual spread of a Panamanian plant

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