How to share a bat

Aug 22, 2007

New research shows how different species of plants evolve unique floral adaptations in order to transfer pollen on different regions of bats’ bodies, thus allowing multiple plant species to share bats as pollinators.

The study, titled “Character displacement among bat-pollinated flowers of the genus Burmeistera: analysis of the mechanism, process and pattern”, was published in this week’s journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. A pattern of character displacement has only rarely been shown for plants, and this is the first study to examine the competitive mechanism and process driving this pattern.

When multiple plant species occur in the same habitat and share the same pollinator, large amounts of pollen may be transferred between different species. This form of plant-plant competition can reduce the fitness of all species by interfering with successful pollination.

Dr. Nathan Muchhala, a post-doctorate researcher, and Dr. Matthew D. Potts, assistant professor in the University of Miami Department of Biology, studied such competition in remote cloud forests of the Ecuadorian Andes. They found that co-occurring bat-pollinated species of the genus Burmeistera reduce competition by evolving differences in flower shape.

This serves to place pollen in different regions of the bats bodies, and thus greatly reduces “incorrect” (between-species) pollen transfer. Experiments with bats and flowers showed that greater differences in flower shape between two species decreases “incorrect” pollen transfer and thus maximizes successful pollination.

“This research study clearly demonstrates that these plants are competing and the competition is strong enough for them to evolve unique characteristics in order to reduce competition for pollination,” says Nathan Muchhala, Ph.D., researcher in the University of Miami Department of Biology.

Along with the experimental work, the research team also analyzed Burmeistera in 18 field sites, and found that differences in flower morphology between co-occurring species were much greater than what would be expected by chance.

Source: University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

Explore further: EU court clears stem cell patenting

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A bird-pollinated flower with a rather ingenious twist

Sep 08, 2014

When researchers studying several bird-pollinated species of Impatiens flowers in the mountains of western Cameroon noticed one with an odd, upwardly curving nectar spur, they couldn't imagine how any su ...

How plants may be evolving to the lack of bees

Jul 14, 2014

Plants which used to have two types of male reproductive organs – to increase their chances for fertilisation – are reverting back to one type. And in some cases, they are becoming self-fertilising.

Nectar: A sweet reward from plants to attract pollinators

Mar 16, 2014

Evolution is based on diversity, and sexual reproduction is key to creating a diverse population that secures competitiveness in nature. Plants had to solve a problem: they needed to find ways to spread their ...

Recommended for you

Discovery in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria

38 minutes ago

For four years, researchers at Universite catholique de Louvain have been trying to find out how bacteria can withstand antibiotics, so as to be able to attack them more effectively. These researchers now understand how one ...

Stem cells born out of indecision

38 minutes ago

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have gained new insight into embryonic stem cells and how blocking their ability to make choices explains why they stay as stem cells in culture. The results have just been published ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.