Show Details

Bats & Carnivorous Plants

February 14, 2011

At least one carnivorous plant appears to have lost its taste for insects in favor of bat guano.



Bat hotels…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Carnivorous plants live on poor soils and get some of their nutrients by trapping insects. The Raffles’ pitcher plant of Borneo gets nitrogen and phosphorus this way. But one variety of the plant is really bad at trapping insects, capturing 10 times fewer insects than other varieties. According to ecologist Ulmar Grafe of the University of Brunei, Darussalam, tiny bats roost in the plants. He and his colleagues recently discovered that the plants are harvesting much of their nitrogen from bat guano caught inside the plant.

ULMAR GRAFE (University of Brunei, Darussalam):

We found a novel mutualism between a bat and a carnivorous pitcher plant with the pitcher providing a safe roost for the bat and the bat providing nitrogen to the pitcher plant.


There are over one hundred species of pitcher plants around the world, so other varieties may have evolved a similar relationship with animals as well. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.