“Bat Eco-Interactions” are defined here as the interactions in which bats consume or transport part or all of another organism, specifically plants or arthropods. In so doing, they can be mere consumers or can be pollinators, seed dispersers, or pest controllers. Brief descriptions of each of these “services” are provided below. For a list of definitions explaining the various interactions covered in this database, please click here.
Bats as pollinators
Over 100 species of bats have been reported visiting the flowers of 525+ species of plants. Though bat pollination is a rather rare and mainly tropical/subtropical phenomenon occurring in Asia, Africa, Australia, the South Pacific Islands, Latin America, and extreme southern United States, it is critical to at least three of the world’s 124 primary crop species: durian, velvet bean, and star apple. Other plants, such as wild bananas and Agave used for making tequila, also rely on bats for pollination. In addition to their economic benefits, bat pollinators provide long distance pollen transport to many ecologically important tree, shrub, and epiphyte species in tropical wet and dry forests, deserts, and savannas.
Bats as seed dispersers
Over 250 species of bats have been reported feeding on the fruit of 700+ species of plants. Frugivorous bats occur in tropical/subtropical Asia, Africa, Australia, South Pacific Islands, and Latin America and many are important seed-dispersers depositing seeds unharmed away from the parent plant in locations where they are likely to germinate. Many pioneer plants, such as Cecropia, Solanum, and Vismia, are adapted for dispersal by bats and are often the first plants to colonize large gaps making bats critical components in forest regeneration after small- and large-scale disturbances.
Bats as pest control and consumers of night-flying insects
Over 800 species of bats are predominantly insectivorous and they are the main consumers of night-flying insects worldwide. Bats have been reported controlling pests of cacao crops in Indonesia, rice in Thailand, coffee in Mexico, macadamia nuts in South Africa, and pecan, corn, and cotton in the United States. The value of the pest-control services to agriculture provided by bats in the U.S. alone range from a low of $3.7 billion to a high of $53 billion a year.