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March 14, 2024 6 mins

The many species of fruit bats around the world help pollinate our plants and spread their seeds far and wide. Learn more about these flying mammals in today's episode of BrainStuff, based on this article: https://animals.howstuffworks.com/mammals/fruit-bats.htm

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Brainstuff, a production of iHeartRadio. Hey brain Stuff,
Lauren Vogelbam here, You've seen one bat, but you most
definitely haven't seen them all. That's because after rodents, bats
make up the second largest order of mammals. There are
over nine hundred different species fluttering around, from a bumblebee

(00:22):
sized hognosed bat to gentle giants with wingspans of five
feet that's a meter and a half or longer. Most
bats eat insects, and often incopious amounts. Then you've got
your big game hunters, bats who have evolved strong enough
jaw muscles that they can prey on vertebrates such as fish, blizzards,
or birds. And of course, the blood drinking vampire bats

(00:45):
from Central and South America need no introduction. But not
all bats are carnivores or vampiric. About three hundred species
eat fruits and other plant products to survive, which works
out great for the rest of us because those flying
creatures really help the environment. One of the most important
families of bats is the Terrapotidae, also known as the

(01:08):
Old World fruit bats. They hang out in tropical and
subtropical parts of Africa, Eurasia, Australia and many Pacific islands.
Remember those gentle giants we mentioned above. Those would be
the flying foxes, which are enormous terrapotids that represent the
largest bats alive today. A species called the giant golden

(01:29):
crowned flying fox can weigh two and a half pounds
or about a kilo, which, trust us is big for
a bat. You may be relieved to hear that it
is a fruit eater or frugivore with the taste for figs.
For the article, this episode is based on How Stuffworks.
Spoke by email with biologist Liam maguire, an assistant professor
at Texas Tech University. He said terrapottoids eat primarily fruit

(01:54):
and nectar. For example, nectar from the flowers of eucalypt
trees is a very important food source for several species
of flying foxes in Australia, but tear potted diets can
also include other plants, pollen, leaves, and sometimes insects. Shoots,
bark and sap are also fair game. But hey, if

(02:15):
you think the name Old World fruit bats implies the
existence of New World fruit bats, you're right. Indeed, the
Americas have no shortage of winged fruit fanciers. The philus
Domidae is another large bat family, one that's distributed across
the neotropics of North, South, and Central America plus the Caribbean.

(02:35):
While many species are committed insect hunters, dozens of these
animals incorporate plant matter into their diets. Depending on the
bat in question, fruits, nectars, pollen, or seeds may be
fair game. How stuff works also spoke by email with
Nimberto Giannini, mammalogist and research associate at the American Museum
of Natural History. He said, frigiferous bats in both the

(02:57):
Old World and the New World tropics eat a variety
of fruits that tend to be scented, relatively large, green
to yellow in color, and exposed away from branches and leaves. So,
for example, bananas, mangoes, figs, and dates are all favorite
foods for fruit bats. Those Old World terrapotods alone feed

(03:19):
on more than a thousand different plant species. Over two
thirds of these grow bats like to consume, and usually
this relationship has mutual benefits. Seeds swallowed by fruit bats
get released elsewhere when the animals poop. According to a
study from nineteen ninety nine, tropical bats in some parts
of Mexico distribute more seeds in this manner than fruit

(03:40):
eating birds do. After a forested place is devastated by wildfires, droughts,
or human activities, fruit bats help it bounce back. A
research suggests that a colony of some one hundred and
fifty two thousand African straw colored fruit bats can distribute
more than three hundred thousand seeds in a single night.
This could be enough to get the reforestation process started

(04:03):
across nearly two thousand acres or eight hundred hectares of land.
A flower and nectar eaters do their part as well.
Bats are pollinators for upward of five hundred and thirty
types of plants, such as pulsa trees, bananas, and dissorted cactuses.
Then we have agave, a key ingredient in pequila and
sweet agave syrup. Migratory bats eat the nectar from their flowers.

(04:27):
In the process, the mammals spread agave pollen around cross
fertilizing the plants as they go worldwide. Echolocation is the
system by which roughly a thousand species of bats find
food and avoid obstacles. Echolocation is a sound based navigational
strategy The process starts when an animal releases high frequency

(04:48):
sound waves through its nose or mouth. By carefully listening
for the echo of those sounds, the sender can decipher
a lot about its surroundings. That's how predatory bats track
down mo and mosquitoes in pitch black darkness. But unlike insects,
a piece of fruit can't fly away regardless, Giannini explained

(05:09):
quote all New World forgivorous bats use echolocation. This type
is called sophisticated laryngeal echolocation, and it's essentially a laryngeal
call emitted through the nostrils and modulated using a nose leaf.
Nose leaves are sort of pointed, leafy looking structures found
around the nasal openings on many bat species faces. In

(05:34):
the rest of the world, most fruit bats don't echo locate,
with a few interesting exceptions, Maguire said. Among the Terra
pot Day, there are bats in the genus Rascetis that
echo locate by clicking their tongues. This mode of echolocation
has often been considered primitive, but studies have shown that
their tongue click echolocation is quite sophisticated. Other Old World

(05:58):
fruit bats make clicking noises with their wings. It's not
echo location in the traditional sense, but echoes from those
clicks do help the animals get around and to aid
in their quest for vegetarian goodies. Many fruit bats around
the world have evolved a keen sense of smell, and
flying foxes possess great eyesight as well, so much for

(06:20):
the old myth the fats are blind. In today's episode
is based on the article fruit bats are the best
pollinators and suppliers of tequila on how stifforks dot com,
written by Mark Vancini. Brain Stuff is production of by
Heart Radio in partnership with HowStuffWorks dot Com and is
produced by Tyler Klang. For more podcasts my heart Radio,

(06:41):
visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen
to your favorite shows.

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