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Plant Sonar

August 8, 2011

A Cuban plant has acoustically-enhanced leaves that help pollinating bats find it in the dark.



Plant sonar…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Bats use echolocation to find insects and other prey. But some bats feed on plant nectar. Now, scientists have discovered that a Cuban plant attracts nectar-sipping bats with specialized leaves that take advantage of sonar. University of Bristol sensory biologist Marc Holdereid says the leaves are shaped a bit like a satellite dish. He and his colleagues hid nectar rewards next to both normal and specialized leaves.

MARC HOLDERIED (University of Bristol):

When we attached one of these concave dish-shaped leaves, what we found was that the bats find these hidden nectar rewards about twice as fast. The acoustic properties or the echoes sent by this dish-shaped leaf actually helps the bats find the flowers.


He says the bats need to visit hundreds of flowers every night to get enough nectar to survive.


It’s a big benefit to their survival and fitness.


I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.