Research finds endangered flying foxes a key part of durian pollination

Scientists have discovered that Southeast Asia's endangered fruit bats - commonly known as flying foxes - play an important part in the pollination of the iconic and economically important durian tree.

Using camera traps, researchers collected video evidence showing the island's flying foxes (Pteropus hypomelanus) pollinating durian flowers, leading to the production of healthy durian fruit. Their study - Pollination by the locally endangered island flying fox (Pteropus hypomelanus) enhances fruit production of the economically important durian (Durio zibethinus) - has been published in the Journal of Ecology and Evolution.

The video footage was captured on Tioman Island by a team led by Dr Sheema Abdul Aziz as part of her PhD at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (France) in collaboration with the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. Dr Sheema said: "These are very important findings because they shed more light on the crucial ecosystem services provided by flying foxes. 

Previously it was known that the smaller, nectar-feeding bats are pollinators for durian - but many people believed that flying foxes were too large and destructive to play such a role. Our study shows the exact opposite: that these giant fruit bats are actually very effective in pollinating durian trees."

Dr Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, from the School of Environment and Geographical Sciences of the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus, and one of the co-authors of the study, said, "We hope this study brings attention to the urgency of conserving flying foxes in Southeast Asia."

Read more at phys.org

Publication date: 10/4/2017


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