Pass the pepper, please: The coevolution of pepper plants and bats

Santana’s team has found some similarities in the chemical composition of fruit scents across pepper species that are eaten by short-tailed fruit bats, yet fruits of each pepper species also have their own distinct scent. In addition, the fruits emit their own unique scents when compared to the general scent of the rest of the plant. The researchers believe the bats most likely cue in to a general pepper scent, and then choose ripe fruits and particular species of pepper plants based on signals of the most abundant and distinct chemicals that comprise the fruit scents.

Understanding the relationship between bats and pepper plants not only contributes to knowledge about coevolution of these species, but also has benefits for habitat conservation. These little bats are key dispersers of seeds that can help restore plant life in logged areas. 

Check out this video of Santana releasing a short-tailed fruit bat after experiements, and see more from mammalogy

Sharlene Santana completed her undergraduate at Universidad de Los Andes (Venezuela), a PhD in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at UMass Amherst, and a postdoctoral position at the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics. She has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, and the Curator of Mammals at the Burke Museum since 2012.

Article Source: Burke Museum