Centropogon nigricans

A huge thank you to Dr. Nathan Muchhala for sharing his photographs of a mammalian pollinator in action to round out the pollinator series.

The flower of the plant species, Centropogon nigricans, is exclusively pollinated by the tube-lipped nectar bat, Anoura fistulata. In other words, this is an example of obligate pollination. It’s also thought to be a prime example of co-evolution (PDF). Dr. Muchhala described Anoura fistulata in a 2005 paper, so this bat species was unknown to science as recently as three or four years ago. Native to the outer slopes of the Andes in Ecuador, Anoura fistulata has the longest tongue relative to its body length of any mammal — so long, in fact, that it is necessary for it to retract its tongue into its rib cage.

The story of the discovery was widely covered in the press in late 2006, so here are a few places to spend some time reading: Floral Long-Necks and Bat Sippers via the Human Flower Project, the transcript of a Nature podcast with Dr. Muchhala about Anoura fistulata, and A New World Record from Bat Conservation International.

Dr. Muchhala has a series of photographs of bat-pollinated flowers (and related bats) here: Bat Pollination in Cloud Forests.

As for the plant, Centropogon nigricans, there’s not much to be found about it online, other than what is written about it in relation to this story, including: “Specialization on one species of pollinator is exceedingly rare in angiosperms, and Centropogon nigricans is the only example known in flowers pollinated by bats.” The genus Centropogon has a distribution range that extends from Mexico south into much of South America (including Peru, Brazil, Chile and Argentina). Of the 230 described species, 65 are found in Ecuador.

Centropogon nigricans
Anoura fistulata

14 responses to “Centropogon nigricans”

  1. phillip

    …that my son…is one heck of a tongue…!
    WOW….!

  2. Deb Christmas

    Incredible!

  3. Ginny (in Maine)

    Wonderful and amazing. Thanks so much for this pollinator series – hope you’ll consider a sequel sometime.

  4. CWick

    AMAZING! Thank you so much for sharing….We don’t often hear of the wonderful capabilities of bats OR get to see it!

  5. Scott McGillivray

    Wow, Gene Simmons look out…..

  6. van

    Incredible!

  7. Rob B

    Quite impressive, but also quite necessary for that job.

  8. elizabeth a airhart

    wonders never cease now do they

  9. bev

    What a spectacular finale to the pollinator series; you have outdone yourself, Daniel! Many thanks, again, for both the picture and the education.

  10. phillip

    two different genre promising their existence to each other…a love that crosses lines…till the end of time

  11. Lynne

    Wow. You saved the best for last. This is simply amazing.

  12. Mary Ann Donegan

    — removed irrelevant comment — Daniel

  13. Daniel Mosquin

    Mary Ann – the place to ask questions like that is the garden forums. See link right above the Post a comment box.

  14. kalpana

    Amazing ,Its very rare and wonerfull.as a botanist i am pleased 2 c this.

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