Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pollinators - Bats

We learned that without midges there would be no chocolate. Have you ever contemplated what you'd loose if we lost the bat? Let the question percolate in your brain while you read the rest of this post. We'll talk about it again at the end.

It is true that most bat species are insectivores, but a healthy minority (about 1/3rd) is nectarivorous and feed on nectar, pollen and fruit. They prefer trees or plants with larger flowers and while invading the blossom to lick out the nectar, they dust their heads and faces with pollen. When the next flower is visited, the first flower's pollen grains are brushed against the new flower's stigma and pollination takes place. 80% of the world's plants require pollination to produce fruits and seeds. The benefits of pollinators, (as opposed to self-pollination), is an assurance of genetic diversity, an important part of a plant's health. The same bats that pollinate will generally return to consume the plant's fruit, and thereby the fruit's seeds. Bats are strong fliers and maintain large home ranges in which they forage. Since they will poop in flight, this makes the bats wonderful seed dispersers, a talent that makes the bats major factors in the regeneration of clear cut tropical forests.

Have you had a chance to think about what products we'd have to give up if bats are driven from their habitat? Keep this in mind, more than 300 Old World tropical plants rely on bats for their pollination and seed-dispersal. Some of these plants are needed as ingredients in medicines, dyes and fuel. Others are more familiar to you. The bat is directly responsible for the proliferation of mangos, bananas, guavas, cashews and dates. And let's not forget the bat's role in the pollination of the agave plant, the key ingredient in tequila. Thought that might get your attention.

Rick A. provided the delicious photo of the Margaritas. Thanks!

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