Plant a bat beckoning beacon (alliteration courtesy of the BBC)
Much of what will follow in this post is provided courtesy of the BBC, but it does reiterate a common theme in much of the literature that I generally discuss here, namely that of plants’ ability to actively, even aggressively, manipulate their environment for strategic advantage. This beckons naturally to the excellent documentary The Botany of Desire and how seemingly docile objects such as plants (and tubers) actively manipulate animals, humans, and anything else they come in contact with. All of this speaks to evolution and natural selection and the desire to extend life. If plants are attractive to those beings they depend on for survival, the more likely they are to survive. The other option is to go the zombie spore route and devastate predators by making yourself fatally unattractive to those beings around you. But I digress.
This instance of plants manipulating nature comes to us from the Caribbean rainforest and a particular rainforest vine, Marcgravia evenia. This plant relies on bats to pollinate it and has therefore re-engineered itself to be particularly attractive to that particular, creepy brand of flying creature. According to the BBC article:
Tests revealed that the leaves were supremely efficient at bouncing back the sound pulses the flying mammals used to navigate. When the leaves were present the bats located the plant twice as quickly as when these echoing leaves were removed.
Not bad, eh? Essentially, these plants engineered their leaves to be efficient at bouncing back bat sonar and make themselves infinitely more findable. Presumably, the entire species has engineered itself this way and those that did not have since fallen by the evolutionary wayside. Now, these plants (plants in general) have already appealed to the other senses to attract pollinators. Many have bright petals specifically for that reason. This acoustic refinement is a further extension of that appeal (and presumably there will be additional discoveries of plants ability to manipulate texture, smell, etc.). Or, as the BBC refers to it, an “echoacoustic beacon”. Echofantastical.