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Nectar bat stows huge tongue in its rib cage

The extreme length of this bat's tongue might have coevolved with the long flowers it pollinates.


Bats of the subfamily Glossophaginae (family Phyllostomidae) are arguably the most specialized of mammalian nectarivores, and hundreds of neotropical plants rely on them for pollination1,2. But flowers pollinated by bats are not known to specialize for bat subgroups (unlike flowers that have adapted to the length and curvature of hummingbird bills, for example), possibly because the mouthparts of bats do not vary much compared with the bills of birds or the probosces of insects3,4. Here I report a spectacular exception: a recently-described nectar bat that can extend its tongue twice as far as those of related bats and is the sole pollinator of a plant with corolla tubes of matching length.

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Figure 1: Protrusible tongue of the nectar bat Anoura fistulata.


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Muchhala, N. Nectar bat stows huge tongue in its rib cage. Nature 444, 701–702 (2006).

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