Plant science

A leaf that's loud and proud

    Many plants lure pollinators to their flowers with diverse colours and patterns, but Marcgravia evenia (pictured) has evolved to attract pollinators that rely on sound rather than sight. The Cuban rainforest vine grows a deep cup-shaped leaf above its flowers that creates a distinct echo for nectar-feeding bats.

    Ralph Simon at the University of Ulm in Germany and his colleagues analysed the leaf's acoustic properties and found that its unique shape produces a strong, constant echo across a range of sound-source angles. They then trained bats to seek a feeder hidden in artificial foliage. The animals found feeders topped with the cup shape in an average of 12 seconds — around half the time it took them to locate unadorned feeders or those under other leaf shapes.

    The team concludes that dish-shaped leaves help this rare plant to attract a key pollinator, as well as reducing bats' energy expenditure.


    Science 333, 631–633 (2011)

    Additional information

    See for more on this story.

    Rights and permissions

    Reprints and Permissions

    About this article

    Cite this article

    A leaf that's loud and proud. Nature 476, 8 (2011).

    Download citation


    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


    Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter for a daily update on COVID-19 science.
    Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing