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By Natalie Goldstein

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The seed is dispersed with the animal’s droppings and may grow into a new plant. Some plants protect their seeds by surrounding them with fruit. Fruit not only protects the seed in the center, it attracts animals that will eat the fruit and aid in dispersing the seed. A fruit consists of a mass of usually sweet, juicy flesh surrounding a central nut, which has a shell protecting the seed inside. Most fruits are brightly colored. The color of the fruit tells the animals when it is ripe and ready to be eaten.

Its tongue moves the food back toward the grinding molars. Plant food is difficult to chew and digest. Think about it: For plants to stand upright, they must be made of strong material. This tough plant material is called cellulose. Browsers and grazers need large, strong grinding teeth to break down cellulose. They also need special enzymes and bacteria in their digestive tracts to digest it. Plant food is so difficult to digest that some animals eat the same food twice. When a cow “chews its cud,” it is re-chewing food that has already been chewed and swallowed.

While the insects are eating the sweet nectar, they also pick up pollen from the flower. As they move from flower to flower, the insects transfer the dustlike pollen, too. This is called pollination. Once a plant is pollinated, it can produce seeds, some of which eventually grow to become new plants. So plants benefit from this relationship, too. There are less common mutualistic relationships between plants and animals. These relationships often involve insects. One type of stinging ant lives on acacia trees in Africa.

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