Bats use carnivorous pitcher plants as toilets

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Bats use carnivorous pitcher plants as toilets

Postby Cheryl Jones » Feb 1, 2011 7:19 pm

Bats use carnivorous pitcher plants as living toilets
Scientists find a win-win situation as mammals provide nutrients for plants
By Charles Q. Choi
updated 1/26/2011 1:55:16 PM ET

Birds may bomb cars with airborne droppings, but bats apparently use living toilets made of carnivorous plants, gracing them with their fecal matter, scientists find.

Pitcher plants get their name from the long juglike structures they form from rolled-up leaves. These pitchers serve as pitfall traps, with digestive fluids to liquefy any hapless victims (typically insects) that fall in.

Scientists recently discovered that small mammals known as tree shrews on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo don't end up as doomed victims of the carnivorous plant — instead, they sit on the rims of one such pitcher plant, Nepenthes lowii, and then poop inside.

As ignoble as this might seem, this is a win-win situation for both the pitchers and tree shrews. The plants cover the pitcher lids with nectar that the critters readily lick for nourishment, while the excrement serves as much-needed fertilizer. (This is why carnivorous plantsnormally trap insects — to get valuable nutrients.)

Now it turns out pitcher plants are not exclusive bathrooms. Scientists have discovered the small woolly bat Kerivoula hardwickii uses a different type of pitcher in Borneo, Nepenthes rafflesiana elongata, as a lavatory and home as well.
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