This Week In Zoology: They Be Into Some Kinky Shit


And I mean that quite literally, actually.

By they, I am referring to a carnivorous pitcher plant found in Borneo, called Nepenthes hemsleyana. And how can a plant possibly fit the above description?

Well because, according to a group of German scientists, This particular carnivorous plant has evolved to entice bats to shit in their mouths. Mmm mmm, yummy.

Most pitcher plants survive by using slippery nectar to attract ants, termites and other insects onto the rim of their bucket-shaped leaf, where they slip into a pit of deadly digestive acids. Some species can devour up to 6,000 insects an hour.

But Schöner and his team noticed that one particular species in the Borneo jungle was living on nothing but bat droppings, and started wondering what the plant was doing differently to attract so many bats to roost nearby.

Publishing in Current Biology, they found that the plant has uniquely shaped back walls that perfectly reflect a bat’s own call back to it. The team then confirmed this by showing that the mammals were more likely to roost on pitcher plants with their reflector structures intact – even when they were hidden – than plants without them.

These plants seem to have become highly specialized in their preference for – literally – eating shit, as by evolving these traits they have also lost many that other species of carnivorous pitcher plants normally use to attract insects. But hey, who are we to judge, right? If batshit is what you want to eat, then more power to you.

I hereby submit Nepenthes hemsleyana as kinkiest plant on the planet.

Comments

  1. StevoR says

    Its certainly a good contender but then there are also quite a few others like the orchids that pretend to be female wasps and fungus gnats and entrap them in their reproductive organs with them in one-way snare? :

    http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150202-three-ways-orchids-trick-insects

    Incidentally I’ve seen Pterostylis sanguinea (Banded Greenhoods) growing in the wild nearby in the nearest national park. Plus seen quite a few different species of spider orchids too. Cool plants but very small and you have to look very closely and carefully to spot them usually.

  2. inquisitiveraven says

    Shouldn’t that be “This Week in Botany”? It’s the pitcher plants, not the bats that are into shit after all.

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      You have a point there! Though I was never any good at Botany, and will never pretend to be able to add any extra facts pulled from the recesses of my memory in that category. Evolution of mutualism is about as far as I can go!

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