The seeds of this story were planted in a steaming pile of elephant dung somewhere in the African savanna. Elephants love to stuff their faces with fruit, and fruit trees like marulas need a way to spread their seeds, so the two species have developed an intimate and symbiotic relationship. A single African savanna elephant is capable of dumping seeds up to 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the site of its feast, making them the most impressive seed transporters in the animal kingdom.
It may not be a luxurious form of travel — via digestive tract, that is — but for roughly half of all plants, animals are a way to branch out over great distances. They can ride in the stomach of a tusked mammal, the pincers of an insect, or on the fur of your dog. Some seeds even hitch rides with multiple animals before arriving at their final destination.
Movement is essential to survival, especially in a changing climate. As plants are scorched by heatwaves and battered by extreme rainfall, their best shot at avoiding extinction can be to spread to new areas where the climate still fits their needs. Research suggests that some plant populations may need to travel kilometers a year to remain in the same conditions in which they evolved — a phenomenon known as “climate tracking.”