Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Calling All Bats

We've long known some plants are pollinated by bats. If you're a plant, though, how do you attract the bats? Send up the Bat-Signal?
Well, sort of. In a marvelous example of how intricate the links between dissimilar organisms can be, the Caribbean plant Marcgravia evenia has evolved dish-shaped leaves that make it appear more prominent to a bat's sonar than other plants without such sound-reflecting technology.
Evolutionary biology tells us that this is natural selection in action: plants whose leaves were more dish-shaped were more likely to be pollinated, and thus plants with that adaptation gradually displaced all other members of its species. It's not any less fascinating for being explainable, though.

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