Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Plants Attract Bats With Physics

Examples of physics abound in the natural world.  Many animals and plants utilize the natural laws of our universe to live, reproduce, and obtain food.  It has been known for many years that bats use high frequency sound waves to echo-locate insects on nightly forays in search of food.  What has recently been discovered is a plant that actively encourages bats to drink nectar from it's fruit, and spread pollen in the process by forming echo-genic leaves designed to allow bats an easier time in finding the fruiting portions of the plant.  Isn't life marvelous?

Most plants are pollinated through bees, but one plant, Marcgravia evenia, which grows in the Cuban rainforest, has it a little harder: it has to attract on-the-go bats in the dark of night.
Instead of using their eyes, the flying mammals orient themselves with echolocation: they send out ultrasound waves and listen closely to which sounds echo back.
According to a study published Friday in the journal Science, a team of British, German and Canadian researchers have shown that this newly-discovered plant that has evolved to reflect back especially audible ultrasound waves. Marcgravia evenia achieves this through concave, spherically shaped leaves.

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