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The Birds, the Bees, and the bats?
When I say bat, most people think blood-sucking vampires or flying rats. They definitely don’t think of beautiful fragrant flowers. Birds and Bees do their thing during the day, but as soon as night falls, it’s the bats that take over. 500 Flower species from at least 67 plant families rely on bats for the majority of their pollinators. Not only are these little guys responsible for plant pollination, they can be really cute too.
5 facts about Bats and Pollination
1. Bats don’t just eat insects.
2. Echolocation to find flowers.
3. Fun Fact: Without bats we would have no tequila.
4. Bats service most of the plants we use for medicinal and economic purposes.
5. Flowers produce musty, rotten smells to attract bats.
1. Bats don’t just eat insects.
Most bats are nectar feeding bats, which play just as important of a role as our insect eating flying mammals. An Australian blossom bat pollinates flowers that have evolved to produce nectar that specifically attracts this bat. In fact scientists believe many plants and flowers have evolved specifically to attract bats, as bats can carry a much larger amount of pollen in comparison to other pollinators. Also the ability to fly long distances is another benefit to plants, especially ones in habitats far from each other.
2. Flowers produce musty, rotten smells to attract bats.
While the flowers can be beautiful, they are not necessarily ones you would want to receive as a gift. To attract the bats the flowers have evolved a musty, rotten perfume, created by sulphur containing compounds, uncommon in most flowers, but found in most that specialize in bat pollination.
Besides the bats amazing sense of smell, they also use their sight. Bat flowers are often white or light colored to stand out compared to other foliage at night. Although bat flowers only open at night, they are often dull colors. Scientists believe this may function as camouflage from other insects and animals.
3. Echolocation to find flowers.
Bats use echolocation to hunt insects, but some bats use it to find nectar producing plants. Some species of plants have evolved acoustic features which echo the bats ultrasonic call more conspicuously, these are often bell shaped, this effectively reflects bat sounds, enabling them to be found easier amongst the dense growth in tropical rainforests.
4. Fun Fact: Without bats we would have no tequila.
Like Tequila? Then cheers to bats! Tequila is made from agave, which solely relies on bats to pollinate and reproduce. The bats luckily don’t get drunk. To make Tequila, the “heart” of the agave is steamed, and then fermented; this part of the plant is far removed from the part of the plant the bats come in search of. So raise a glass to bats!
5. Bats service most of the plants we use for medicinal and economic purposes.
Bats almost exclusively pollinate wild bananas. Bats pollinate many ecologically and economically important plants all around the world. This includes fruits, fibers and timbers that we use every day. Flying foxes, large fruit eating bats from Australia, pollinate the Eucalyptus forests, which provide healing oils that are shipped around the world.