Pollination - Merlin Tuttle's Bat Conservation

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Bignoneaceae, Crescentia cujete, Calibash tree. A Glossophaga commissarisi approaches flower with pollen on head.

The calibash tree is native to Central and South America, where it grows approximately 6 to 10 meters tall with a wide crown and long branches covered with clusters of leaves. Is common mostly along forest margins from sea level to about 400 meters. It relies on a wide variety of bats as its primary pollinators, including glossopagine, stenodermine and phyllostomine bats. Its night-blooming flowers are borne directly on trunks and branches, making them more accessible to larger stenodermine and phyllostomine bats that cannot hover. Pollen is normally placed on the head and shoulders of visiting bats. See Helverson et al (Experimental Biology, 2003) for details of how the bell shape of Cresentia cujete flowers helps guide echolocating bats to a specific nectar source. This tree is frequently cultivated in yards. It is also used to form living fences. Its large (up to 25 centimeters in diameter) gourd-like fruits are used for water containers, cups and bowls and for musical rattles. Its sturdy but flexible wood is used for cattle yokes, tool handles, wheels, boat ribs and baskets. The fruit pulp is also used in traditional medicines, and its fibers are twisted into twine and rope. Because of its many human uses, the calibash tree has been introduced into tropical areas worldwide and has become quite famous. A single tree can produce up to 100 gourds annually, and they take up to 7 months to fully develop. No currently native animal is cabable breaking the shells in order to eat the sweet pulp inside. Jansen and Martin (Science Vol. 215, 1982) hypothesized that large grazing mammals, including now extinct Pleistocene elephants called gomphotheres, may have once eaten the large gourds and dispersed the seeds in lowland forests.

MM80341111140200Calabash tree Crescentia cujete BignoniaceaeCaribbeanCentral AmericaCommissaris's longtongued bat Glossophaga commissarisiCosta RicaLa Selvabatch 4islandpollinating Crescentia cujete