The pallid bat may be best known for munching on scorpions, but new research shows that this bat also enjoys cactus fruit and nectar.
When it comes to bats, flexibility in foraging behavior is typically unidirectional frugivorous (fruit-eating) bats will sometimes incorporate arthropods into their diets. The converse is rarely seen.
Enter the pallid bat.
With its large ears and pig-like nose, the pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus) may look a bit goofy, but these adaptations are key to the pollination services this unique bat provides. Known for preying on large beetles, Jerusalem crickets, and scorpions, the pallid bat has also been observed enjoying cactus fruit and nectar.
This is good news for the cactus, as the pallid bat does not possess any morphological adaptions for nectar eating (long tongue, long muzzle, etc.), it must plunge its whole head and torso into the flower to obtain the nectar. This results in more pollen attaching to its fur. Consequently, the bat will deliver more pollen to the stigmas per visit, making it a more effective pollinator per flower visit than the lesser-nosed bat (the primary pollinator of the cardon cactus).
New research published in the Journal of Mammalogy by Jaclyn R. Aliperti et al. found that the pallid bat also visited the fruit of cardon cactus just as frequently as the lesser long-nosed bat and removed the same amount of fruit.
Winifred Frick, BCI’s Senior Director of Conservation Science, has a special place in her heart for the tenacious bat. “Pallid bats are by far my favorite species of bat. The most obvious reason is that they are tough and can tackle and eat a scorpion, but they also have this goofy side to their look and personality”.
The pallid bat’s unique plasticity in diet and messy eating habits certainly adds a new dimension to this bat species. Just don’t invite one to your next dinner party.