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Bats & Pitcher Plants

July 13, 2015

The echo of a pitcher plant helps bats find safety and helps the plant get food.



Schöner et a

(Schöner et al. Current Biology 2015.)

Echoing for delivery. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Pitcher plants live in nutrient-poor soil and trap insects to provide the nutrients they need. But one species, Nepenthes hemsleyana, prefers a different fertilizer: bat poop. In the journal Current Biology, University of Greifswald researcher Michael Schöner and his colleagues report that the plants provide a safe, climate-controlled roost for Hardwick’s woolly bat.

MICHAEL SCHONER (University of Greifswald, Germany):

The pitchers provide just enough space for one single bat, and it perfectly fits into these pitchers like a cork in a bottle. So these pitchers really seem to perfectly fit to the bat.


But how do these nearly blind bats find the plants? Schöner says that the ultrasonic calls they make reverberate off a special structure in the back wall of the pitcher. The distinct echoes help bats find their cozy refuge and deliver dinner to the plants. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.