Research

Nectar-Eating Bats

Nectar-eating bats have evolved to use several methods to drink. Some bats, like the Pallas’ long-tongued bat (top), use a lapping method. Hair-like papillae on the bat’s tongue increase the contact area with the nectar, helping to draw the fluid up in viscous globs as the bat repeatedly dips its tongue into the nectar. The orange nectar bat (middle and bottom), in contrast, has a tongue with a long central groove. This bat’s tongue stays submerged as it drinks. Researchers hypothesize that muscle action along the tongue, combined with capillary action in the narrow groove, allow the bat to actively pump nectar up to its mouth. It’s worth noting that the edges of the bat’s tongue do not curl around to touch, so the bat is definitely not using suction as one would with a straw. (Image credit: M. Tschapka et al., source)

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