Kiwi walking bat pollinates flower of the underworld


Kiwi walking bat pollinates ‘flower of the underworld’

angusbrown I've held one of these. They are cute! I joined a special evening trip here with @docgovtnz. It was so much fun. They captured the bats that live in trees with special bat nets, checked tags and took DNA samples from the wings. After we each got to hold one briefly and release it. It was an amazing night in the #EglintonValley which is along the #MilfordRoad on the way to Milford Sound from #TeAnau. #Fiordland

Look closely at this little bat and you'll see pollen slathered all over its nose after feasting on the rare Hades flower.

The lesser short-tailed bat (Mystacina tuberculata), which is about six to seven centimetres in length, is one of only two species of bats endemic to New Zealand.

The bat, which is endangered, forages on the ground as well as in the air and walks on four limbs — their backward facing feet and their wrists, said palaeontologist, Associate Professor Suzanne Hand from the University of New South Wales.

The bat has a broad diet including nectar, pollen, fruit, flowers and insects.

"Bats are important pollinators and seed dispersers that keep forests healthy," Dr Hand said.

In autumn, the bat plays an important role in the lifecycle of the rare Hades flower (Dactylanthus taylorii), sometimes known in Mâori as "pua o te reinga" or "flower of the underworld".

The endangered flower (seen in the foreground of the image) is a parasitic plant that grows on the roots of certain trees in New Zealand's north island.

The pinky-brown flowers — which smell like fermenting corn — appear from February to May.

It is the only ground flower in the world pollinated by a bat, Dr Hand said.

While Mystacina tuberculata is the only bat of its genus seen today, its relatives first appeared in New Zealand 16 million years ago, according to a study by Dr Hand and her colleagues.

At an estimated 40 grams, the extinct bat was roughly three times heavier than its living cousin, suggesting it spent less time in the air and hunted even larger prey and ate larger fruit on the ground, they report in journal PLOS One.


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BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats: Kiwi walking bat pollinates flower of the underworld
Kiwi walking bat pollinates flower of the underworld
Kiwi walking bat pollinates flower of the underworld
BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats
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