From the Archives
of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia, inc.
by Brian Watson, senior horticulturalist
Bat Pollination of Fruit Trees
The following comments have come from Dr. Greg Richards of the
C.S.I.R.O. Division of Wildlife and Rangelands Research following an
enquiry to him on the prospects of bat pollination of durian in North
"There are two species of strictly nectarivorous
bats that are undoubtedly involved in plant pollination in north
Queensland. These are the Queensland blossom bat (Syconycteris australis) and the northern blossom bat (Macroglossus minimus).
The former is distributed in eastern Australia and PNG, the latter is
widespread from north-eastern Queensland to south-east Asia. They are
both involved in the pollination of many native trees, as well as
banana, mango, coconuts and probably many other commercial trees as
"Both are similar in appearance, and have specialisations
such as a long tapered snout and an extremely long and highly
protrusible tongue, with fleshy brush-like projections that assist in
the withdrawal of nectar.
"There has been no research done on
either species in Australia, but much information can be taken from the
only study done elsewhere in the world which is:
Start, A N (1974).
The feeding biology in relation to food sources of nectarivorous bats
(Chiroptera:Macroglossinae) in Malaysia.
PhD Thesis: University of Aberdeen.
"One of Tony Start's animals was M. minimus, and Durio zibethinus was utilized as a food source, and thereby being pollinated.
"The large flying foxes (Pteropus spp)
also have a role in pollination, and are subject of a new research
project here. Examination of faecal samples shows, besides many seeds,
an abundance of floral parts, and night observations have shown that
the spectacled flying fox pollinates Grevillea robusta."
as already observed by Colin Gray in his durian tree on Green Hill
(Gordonvale), there is a good chance that we have the right species of
pollinator bats and this makes prospects for commercial and home garden
production of durian considerably stronger."
Dr. Greg Richards
has only recently moved to North Queensland for research on bat species
- including the Spectacled Flying Fox. He is based at C.S.I.R.O.
Division of Forest Research - Atherton.
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