Bats in my porch: 11. Figs

posted in: Fauna | 2

Figs LINK are one of the favourite food of the Common Fruit Bats (Cynopterus brachyotis) LINK. Shortly after sunset, these bats seek out fruiting fig trees using their large eyes and strong sense of smell – fruit bats do not echolocate. Circling round the tree, they settle on a selected bunch of figs. Once a ripe fig has been selected, they fly back to the roost to eat it (above).

Eating involves crushing the fig to extract the juice and discard the compacted mass. These discards are left on the ground under the roost (above). Should these pellets be examined, numerous fig seeds can be seen. In the process of crushing the figs, a few seeds will obviously be swallowed. These are eventually discarded with the faeces. The image below shows the crushed figs still attached to the stalk as well as fig pellets – scale in mm.

In this way these bats help to disperse the seeds of the fig trees they feed on.

Working with a Panamanian fig community, Kalko et al., 1996) found that fruit bats are attracted to figs that ripen synchronously and remain green when ripe. Those that ripen asynchronously, small and turn red with ripening are sought after by birds.

YC Wee
August 2014

Kalko, E. K. V., Herre, E. A. and Handley, C. O. (1996). Relation of fig fruit characteristics to fruit-eating bats in the New and Old World tropics. Journal of Biogeography, 23: 565–576.

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