Click here for a printable version (in PDF).
A keystone species is just that, it is a keystone.
When a stone arch is built there is a keystone at the top of the arch that holds the whole structure together.
If you were to dislodge that keystone the whole structure would come crashing down.
Next time you see a stone arch or an old stone bridge look for the keystone, it is always in the centre at the top of the arch.
In the animal kingdom there are many keystone animals and each one is referred to as a keystone species. Without each of them, a part of the world they live in would start to fall apart.
In the Central and South American rainforests there is a bird called a Toucan. It is a very beautiful bird with a very large colourful bill. They are so lovely and comical looking with their bright colours and large bill that many children�s books use pictures of Toucans.
The bill of the Toucan is specialised to eat fruit and much of the fruit it can swallow whole. Once the seed has passed through the Toucan then the seed can grow. Not all plants and trees in the rainforests of the Americas rely on the Toucans for their germination; some of them rely on other creatures. However, many of them do rely on the Toucan.
Once a tree has grown it will attract many types of creatures like beetles, bugs, butterflies, birds, reptiles, monkeys, sloths and many other types of creatures. Those creatures are only in the rainforests because those types of trees and plants are also there. Some types of plants and trees are only there because of the Toucan. So if the Toucan were to disappear then there would be a whole range of other animals that would eventually disappear from the rainforest with them.
That is why the toucan is called a keystone species and there are many more. There is a bird called the Hornbill and perhaps you will remember the bird that played a part in the movie �Lion King� it was a large blue bird called Zazu.
There are many different kinds/species of Hornbills found in Africa, the Indian Sub-continent and South East Asia including the Indonesian islands. They are large billed fruit eaters and each one is a keystone species. So where it lives, it is a very valuable and important bird.
The Cassowaries of New Guinea and the rainforest of Northern Australia are all keystone species, meaning that they have a lot to do with holding their environment together. There are many birds and animals throughout the world that are keystones. Each time the world loses a keystone species it becomes a much poorer place, and that is an axiom.