Wild Things: Wildcats, Pigeons and More...
Sea monster mamas, bat signals and opossum versus viper
- By T.A. Frail, Joseph Stromberg, Erin Wayman and Sarah Zielinski
- Smithsonian magazine, October 2011
(Corinna U. Kock / Picture Alliance / Photoshot)
The Cuban rain forest vine Marcgravia evenia has concave leaves hanging near its flowers that apparently summon pollinating bats (above: a photomontage). Scientists led by the University of Ulm in Germany sent sonar signals toward the leaves and found they reflected strong echoes that a bat would find easy to identify. The researchers then trained nectar-eating bats to find a feeder hidden in artificial foliage. When they placed the feeder near a replica of the vine’s leaves, the bats found it twice as fast as they found feeders near flat leaves. The leaves aren’t well suited to photosynthesis and thus provide little direct energy to the plant, but the scientists argue that “these costs are outweighed by the benefits of more efficient pollinator attraction.”