A new study has revealed the relationship between carnivorous pitcher plant and insect-hunting bats of Borneo. The study also revealed that pitcher plants use acoustic reflectors to indicate their location to bats.
The study was led by Ulmar Grafe of the University of Brunei Darussalam and his research team. The team was perplexed with the relationship between two rare species — the plant species Nepenthes hemsleyana and the bat species Kerivoula hardwickii. They had observed that a number of bats were roosting inside the plant. Study co-author Michael Schoner found that bats excrete inside and around the pitcher plants, which plays a key role in fertilizing the plant.
“The plants were able to acoustically stand out from their environments, so that bats can easily find them,” said Schoner.
These Paleotropical carnivorous plants use specialized structures like its leaves that stand out on an “acoustic level.” The bats will be able to distinguish the partner and other plants who are similar in shape, but lack the “conspicuous reflector.” The bats and the plants have a symbiotic relationship: The bats are being offered a resting place to roost, while the plants are provided with excrement. When the bats rest on the top of the plant, it will be refrained from the plant’s digestive juices.
The plants utilize the nitrogen in the feces for fertilization, and the study also explained why this particular species is bad at luring insects in the tropical moist forests of Borneo. However, this particular plant species is not the only one that uses “acoustic reflectors.” Several plant species use specially curved petals to reflect ultrasound , for attracting nectar-feeding bats for pollination. Schoner explained that N. hemsleyana reduced many insect-attracting traits, it obviously exhibits some traits that are highly attractive for a species that provides the plants with nutrients without being digested by the plant itself.