Baja Cactus: Which Bat's the Better Pollinator?

December 11, 2012 by
Categories: Mexico

Fruit batOf the two bat species known to visit the flowers of the cardon cactus in Baja California, one depends entirely on nectar and is highly specialized to feed from the flowers, which are adapted for pollination by bats.

The other pollinator of Baja cactus is an insect-eating bat best known for its ability to hear the footsteps of large insects and scorpions and capture them on the ground. In a surprising result, scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have found that the insect-eating pallid bat is a more effective pollinator of the cactus flowers than the nectar-feeding specialist, the lesser long-nosed bat.

“The lesser long-nosed bat is highly specialized for nectar-feeding and was thought to be the primary pollinator of the cardon cactus. But when we measured their effectiveness, we found that the pallid bat actually delivers about 13 times as much pollen per visit,” said Winifred Frick, a research scientist at UC Santa Cruz. Frick is first author of a paper on the new findings published online in American Naturalist.

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