A carnivorous plant has learnt how to communicate with bats
It uses ultrasonic calls to entice bats to sh*t in it.

Scientists have discovered that a species of carnivorous pitcher plant in Borneo has evolved a unique way of enticing bats to roost nearby. But the end goal isn't to eat the flying mammals - instead, Nepenthes hemsleyana stays nourished by digesting their falling droppings.
科學家發現,在印尼婆羅洲有一種豬籠草Nepenthes hemsleyana竟然演化出獨特的方法誘使蝙蝠棲息在它附近。不過這些豬籠草的目標不是蝙蝠,而是要從蝙蝠的排泄物中取得養分。
* carnivorous pitcher plant指的是食肉性的瓶子植物,指的不只是豬籠草,還有瓶子草、土瓶草、太陽瓶子草等,但是本文主角是婆羅洲的豬籠草,如果翻譯成食肉性瓶子植物反而會讓人摸不著頭腦,而且其他幾種瓶子植物又不存在婆羅洲,故本文翻譯遇到這幾個字除非必要,否則全部以豬籠草代之。
* 雖然carnivorous plant翻譯成食肉植物比較恰當,但是一般還是習慣以食蟲植物稱之。

So in other words, a plant has worked out how to communicate with a mammal, just to encourage it to poop in its mouth.

The fascinating mechanism involves special reflector structures on the plants, which bounce bats' ultrasonic calls back at them, luring them to roost in the shade of their leaves.

"With these structures, the plants are able to acoustically stand out from their environments so that bats can easily find them," one of the researchers Michael Schöner, from the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-University of Greifswald in Germany, told Jennifer Viegas over at Discovery News. "Moreover, the bats are clearly able to distinguish their plant partner from other plants that are similar in shape, but lack the conspicuous reflector."
德國格賴夫斯瓦爾德大學研究員Michael Schöner接受探索新聞記者Jennifer Viegas訪問時說道:「因為這樣的結構,蝙蝠只要透過聲音,就能在森林中輕易找到植株」,「更甚者,蝙蝠還能輕易分辨這種豬籠草與其他外型相似但是沒有反射功能的品種的差異。」

Most pitcher plants survive by using slippery nectar to attract ants, termites and other insects onto the rim of their bucket-shaped leaf, where they slip into a pit of deadly digestive acids. Some species can devour up to 6,000 insects an hour.
But Schöner and his team noticed that one particular species in the Borneo jungle was living on nothing but bat droppings, and started wondering what the plant was doing differently to attract so many bats to roost nearby.
* 原文slippery nectar是滑滑的蜜汁,但是一般的理解是利用唇口蜜汁吸引昆蟲,等待昆蟲失足從光滑的唇口落入瓶中,因此不照翻。
* bucket-shaped leaf指的是豬籠草葉片異化而成的捕蟲囊,也就是俗稱的”瓶子”,rim of their bucket-shaped leaf直接翻譯感覺怪怪的,所以翻成”瓶口邊上”,或者稱”唇邊”玩家也看得懂,只是怕一般人看不懂。

To work this out, the researchers used an artificial biomimetic bat head, which could record and play ultrasounds. This allowed them to test whether the pitcher plant was reflecting the bat's calls, and if so, where they were bouncing off from.

Publishing in Current Biology, they found that the plant has uniquely shaped back walls that perfectly reflect a bat's own call back to it. The team then confirmed this by showing that the mammals were more likely to roost on pitcher plants with their reflector structures intact - even when they were hidden - than plants without them.


"Carnivorous plants in general have already solved the problem of nutrient deficiency in a very unusual way by reversing the 'normal system' of animals feeding on plants," Schöner told Viegas. "It is even more astonishing that in the case of N. Hemsleyana, the system is taking a new turn."
研究員Schöner接著表示:「食肉植物為了解決營養缺乏的困境,演化出與”一般機制”大相徑庭的”植物吃動物”機制。現在,我們又在N. Hemsleyana這個品種的豬籠草上發現了更令人驚奇的新系統。」

"While N. Hemsleyana reduced many insect-attracting traits, it obviously exhibits some traits that are highly attractive for a species that provides the plants with nutrients without being digested by the plant itself," he added.
此外Schöner補充,「N. Hemsleyana不走昆蟲誘引的路線,而是明顯地朝另外一個方向發展,那就是去吸引一些既可以提供養分給它的生物,而且這些養分它還不需要它消耗太多能量去分解。」
*這段想表達的是,一般的豬籠草利用消化液分解獵物後才能吸收養分,而N. Hemsleyana直接吃大便,不需要去分解昆蟲外骨骼等構造,因此才會說” without being digested by the plant itself”。

That's one pretty clever way to make sure you never run out of food.



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