Leaf acts as an echo beacon to lure bat pollinators

Yun Xie

Leaf acts as an echo beacon to lure bat pollinators

A montage shows a bat approaching a disk-shaped leaf.

As a Pallas’s long-tongued bat flies around a rainforest looking for nectar, it relies on echolocation from the sound it emits to find flowers. From a plant’s perspective, it’s good to be found by bats, which are highly mobile pollinators. But how can a plant stand out among the sea of foliage in a rainforest?

A recent paper in Science reveals that the vine Marcgravia evenia from the Cuban rainforest has evolved to catch a bat’s attention by producing one to two dish-shaped leaves near its flowers. These dish-shaped leaves stand upright and point the concave side toward nectar-feeding pollinators. The dimensions of the leaves make them an acoustic beacon for bats.

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