Just when you though nature couldn’t surprise you any more, scientists have uncovered something which may seem a bit… surprising. Here’s an unusual friendship: a bat and a carnivorous plant! We can honestly say, Tinder’s got nothing on that!
It appears that when it comes to matchmaking, humans, and app developers alike, have much, much to learn. Whenever we seem to have uncovered secret mysteries about social interaction, nature shows us that it’s been doing that forever.
Mainly, here, I’m talking about bats. Just like humans like to hear their ideas resonating from other people, so do bats like to hear their voices bouncing off of other objects. Yes, bats have an ultrasound system which helps them get around at night. And there is a weird connection between that and the carnivorous pitcher plant – Nepenthes hemsleyana.
A team of researchers from the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University in Greifswald, Germany have been fascinated with the way in which bats seemed to be attracted to this weirdly shaped plant, but until recently they didn’t know why.
So, they conducted an experiment involving a biomimetic, artificially created bat head. Since they knew that, somehow, echolocation was central to this whole friendship, they designed the head to transmit and then record the ultrasonic waves coming back to it. What they discovered, was that the plant clearly was the star of the acoustically generated field of view. Why?
Because of its unusual, carnivorous plant-like conic shape and the “reflector” on top of its head, this plant reflected the sound waves perfectly back towards the bat. This allowed the bat to know exactly where to land, even though there were similar plants in the area.
This is a unique evolutionary trait for the pitcher plant. This specific species is not so effective in the carnivorous part of it, but instead gets many of its much needed nutrients from the poopy material which the bats usually leave in the plant’s “mouth” or around its base. This gives it a “snack” as well as it fertilizes the soil around it.
Michael Schöner, one of the co-authors of the study, says that carnivorous plants in general have solved nutrient deficiency problems by ingeniously reversing the order of what eats what. Although the pitcher plant has the ability to capture and digest insects, it very rarely does so, since it gets more than enough food from bat fecal materials.
So, this clearly shows that even without a brain, one can clearly solve complex problems in very interesting ways, and can even develop a long-lasting friendship based on mutual respect and… well, poop.
Image source: iphonelogic.com