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: Free the seed: OSSI nurtures growing plants without patent barriers

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

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 ...

Foundational concept of ecology tested by experiment

Jun 22, 2012

An elementary school science activity asks children who have each been assigned a wetland plant or animal to connect themselves with string and tape to other "organisms" their assigned plant or animal interacts ...

Recommended for you

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Apr 18, 2014

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.