General

Volume 37, Issue 2, 2018

Interdependence

Bats, agaves and industry


Agaves are chiropterophilous, meaning they are pollinated by bats
in the wild, who subsequently depend on this energy-rich nectar as a food source.
Courtesy of Getty Images

The landscape of Mexico and the southwestern United States has changed dramatically in the last few centuries. Once a diverse ecosystem full of unique flora and fauna, anthropogenic pressure has all but eliminated many keystone species of the region. And perhaps no other lifeform is as emblematic of this change as the agave plant.

Agaves, the striking sentinels that dot this desert landscape, are intrinsically tied to the history and culture of the region. This is in no small part due to the fact that the genus is responsible for the massive industry that is tequila, mezcal and pulque, among other things. In turn, over 100,000 workers depend on the agave for their livelihoods.

However, the agave is not merely the soul of an industry, it is also quite literally the lifeblood of the murciélago—the bat. For the endangered Mexican long-nosed bat and lesser-long nosed bat, flowering agaves are the food and habitat that are critical to their survival.

Work is underway to restore fractured Western landscapes and create habitat of wild agave to feed these bat species. Stay up to date with this project over at batcon.org.

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