Insects and pitcher plants and bats, oh my!

I have always been fascinated with the natural world and especially the more unseen parts of it.  Insects have adapted so many characteristics to circumvent plant defenses, hide themselves from predators or prey, and utilize habitats and resources.  Pitcher plants still have them beat.  To me, there is nothing cooler than watching a venus fly trap snap shut on some poor unsuspecting insect.  Or to see a trapped insect in the dewy tips of a sundew plant.  Or this:

San Antonio Botanical Gardens

Pitcher plants will “eat” insects as they fall into the cup that is filled with digestive juices.  Depending on the species, the sides may be slippery, angled, or covered in hairs that prevent the hapless individual from extricating itself from the sticky situation.  There is a neat video from the Smithsonian that shows hundreds of termites being attracted to and trapped by a single pitcher plant.  Nature is so cool.

To continue on that theme, this last week a study was published in Current Biology on the mutualistic relationship between bats and carnivorous plants.  “Ensonifications of the pitchers around their orifice revealed that this structure indeed acts as a multidirectional ultrasound reflector.”  Which roughly translates to the plant sends back some of the echolocation of the bat, telling it that the plant is a good place to hunker down for a nap.  The bat can fit in the pitcher without contacting the digestive fluids and while it is there it… well…  poops.  And the

San Antonio Botanical Gardens

plant likes it.  Okay, that’s a little anthropomorphic, but the plant gains valuable nutrients from the bat guano, the bat gains a safe place, and hence the mutualistic relationship.  Pretty darn cool.

So there’s some entomological coolness for today, insects, plants, and mammals; all connected.

Got a favorite insect interaction?  Comment below and share/like to pass this along.


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