Pitcher plants are these fascinatingly beautiful carnivorous flora of remote regions in Borneo and as interesting as they look, some interesting features define them as well. These plants are known to “ingest” bat poop by standing out against a bat’s echolocation cries.
As bats fly through the jungle of Borneo, they call out to find a safe place to spend the night, while the plant calls back. The plant has extremely lengthy pitchers that are very short of fluid and fail to release insect attractants. It ingests seven times fewer insects than other species. Instead, the plant shelters small bats. Species of Hardwicke’s woolly bat are known to find a night shelter inside the plants and nowhere else. Sometimes, an entire family of bats can be observed to silently rest inside the flower that looks like a small bag of fresh green material.
Instead of using its vast space to trap insects, this pitcher plant makes up for a perfect home for bats. It doesn’t swallow insects, it doesn’t make them drown in the pool of liquid within the pitcher and it doesn’t do a great job in killing off delicate and small insects, thus failing to become a fearful plant predator.
The plant can just stay there, be pretty, provide shelter for bats and for all that it receives precious food instead. The bats poop in the plants and all the nutrients of their feces are allowing the plant to survive. The bats poop is highly rich in nitrogen, a very important plant nutrient.
This is the way our friendly plant can survive, given the fact that its closest relatives can capture seven times as many insects as it does.
N.hemsleyana is not the only species who survives on bat poop. South America is another area that shelters flowers with a similar behavior. The plants are pollinated by bats and must always find a way to attract the animals. They manage to do that by turning their beautiful flowers into sonar dishes, able to reflect the calls of echolocating bats. Carnivorous plants attract bats in a process that brings mutual benefits. Nature will always be the place that brings the most precious knowledge to humans.
Image Source: theverge.com