A tiny bat with a very long tongue made its television debut on National Geographic Channel. The bat was filmed from a very special angle: a micro camera gave us the inside view of a flower's very long neck.
The Anoura fistulata – the tube-lipped nectar bat – was discovered in 2005 in South America. Its body is 6.5 cm long, its tongue 9 cm: one and a half times its own length. This bat’s main food is nectar, especially the nectar of the Centropogon nigricans plant. This flower has a very long neck, but the long tongue of the bat enables the animal to lick up the nectar. As it drinks, the bat also touches the flower’s stamina, causing the pollen to cling to its fur. When the bat drinks from the next flower, the pollen then sticks to that flower’s pistil, contributing to the plant’s pollination.
Researchers suspect that the bat and the plant have evolved together, developing traits from which each species benefits.
The bat was filmed with a micro camera behind a small hole cut at the base of the flower. The film clearly shows how the tongue emerges from the bat’s lower lip and disappears in the flower to suck up the nectar. Also clearly visible is the way the bat can hover over the flower like a hummingbird to drink the nectar. The high resolution images reveal many details, to the researchers’ delight. Such detail provides more insight into the way other bats can drink nectar.