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The key role of bats in pollination and seeds cactus dispersal in some Mexican areas

by: SeedsCactus.com10/07/2013

Common in darkness, often surrounded of an aura of mystery, bats contribute to the spread of cacti playing a relevant environmental importance role. In humid tropical environments their ability to contribute to the maintenance and regeneration of plant species is well known: for example, in the blooming season these birds, jumping flower by flower, can disperse a huge amount of seeds on the ground (about 100,000 seeds per hectare each night)

Less known is their ability to pollination and seeds dispersal in arid areas, notoriously full of cacti and succulents plants: according to a study by A. Rojaz-Martinez, botanist of the "Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas Mexico", some species of bats, in addition to promoting pollination flying flower to flower, would be particularly greedy fruits of cacti and, consequently, would help the dispersal of seeds and the emergence of new plants. In particular, the species Leptonycteris yerbabuenae ("long-nosed bat") would be the main architect of the spread of columnar cacti in the desert areas of Mexico, so far to get the nickname "landscape architect". It is, unfortunately, a little-known species: in autumn and winter it feeds on nectar and pollen of Agavaceae, in spring and summer also eats the nectar of cacti. In total it feeds (and thus promotes the reproduction) of more than 70 plant species.

The study of A. Rojaz-Martinez permit to assess the size of the population of this bird, estimated in about 120 thousand units only in Mexico, and the analysis of guano samples has allowed to identify the most attractive fruits, which were found to be those of Myrtillocactus geometrizans, Stenocereus pruinosus, Stenocereus stellatus, Pachycereus weberi, Cephalocereus senilis, Neobuxbaumia polilopha, Pilosocereus, Opuntia. Estimating the presence on the territory of these plants, suitably translated into the amount of food available, the botanists calculated that, every night, about 25 bats per hectare fly the arid deserts Mexicans: a very significant amount, which testifies to the centrality of their role in influencing the spread of plant species!

Once again there is a clear synergy between the world of plant and animal biodiversity conservation: an aspect therefore essential in planning interventions for the protection of natural environment


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Find out more:
A. Rojaz-Martinez, Murcielagos arquitectos del desierto – Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas, UAEH






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