Thus, the outstretched tongue is twice as long in A. fistulata as in the two related bat species, with which the bat outperforms all other mammals relative to body length. Among the vertebrates, only the chameleon is better. A. Fistulata achieves this maximum performance with a trick: The tongue is not limited to the palate and the jaw, but extends over the neck to the chest. There it is surrounded by a special tissue structure, the so-called tongue tube.
There must be a suitable flower for this long tongue, Muchhala suspected. Charles Darwin had already predicted such a connection correctly for a Malagasy butterfly. When Muchhala analyzed the pollen on the faces and fur of the three species of bats, he found only in A. fistulata pollen of the bell flower plant Centropogon nigricans, which has particularly long flower tubes of eight to nine centimeters.
As no plants have been known so far whose flowers are adapted to certain bat species, this is the first example of a plant that can be pollinated by a single species of bat alone. The researcher suspects that the long tongue and the flower tube have developed together. display
This discovery is also an example of a so-called convergent evolution. Biologists refer to the independent development of similar features in unrelated species. Even the ant-eating pangolin is under the pressure of selection to develop a tongue as long as possible - and has a tongue tube like the bat A. fistulata.Nathan Muchhala (University of Miami): Nature, Vol. 444, p. 701 ddp / science.de? Annette Schneider