The Tube-Lipped Nectar Bat and the flower of the plant species Centropogon Nigricans, both of Ecuador, are very unique. Why? Because without this specific bat to pollinate this specific flower, the flower wouldn’t exist. As the bat drinks the flower’s nectar, the flower’s pollen dusts its head and face and is delivered to the next flower the bat visits.
And why is this particular bat so important to this long-fluted flower? Because this recently-discovered bat has a tongue that’s 150% the size of its body length! It keeps its tongue in its rib cage and then uses it to reach deep into the flower for its sweet nectar. From LiveScience:
[Nathan] Muchhala [of the University of Miami] suspects the bell-shaped flower and this nectar bat co-evolved, or influenced each other and evolved side-by-side. “This bat was just discovered [in 2005], and now we’ve observed a very unique relationship with a local flower,” Muchhala said.
To confirm, he plans to measure snout length of tube-lipped nectar bats in different areas. If the bats have shorter tongues in areas where the local flowers have diminutive tubes and longer tongues with lengthier flowers, the finding would support co-evolution.
One more note on the video: the National Geographic Untamed Americas team cut a small hole in the flower and stuck a high speed camera in it to capture the bat’s tongue on video. It’s incredible first-time footage of a bat that no one knew existed just a few years ago.