Fruit-eating bats ingest dirt to counter toxic plant compounds

April 23, 2008

Pregnant and lactating frugivorous bats ingest dirt in order to detoxify plant compounds in the fruit they eat, report researchers writing in the journal PLoS ONE.

Capturing female bats at mineral licks in the Amazonian rainforest of Ecuador, researchers led by Dr. Christian Voigt of the Berlin Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research found that only bats with a fruit-dominated diet visited mineral licks. Voigt and colleagues speculate that because female bats ingest more fruits than usual during pregnancy and lactation, they are exposed to higher levels of plant toxins and therefore compensate by consuming mineral rich clay or water. In other studies, such minerals have been shown to offset the effects of toxins by binding with bioactive compounds.

"At first glance it seemed that bats visit these sites for the same purpose as other animals such as large tapirs or birds, i.e. to meet their daily mineral requirements," Voigt said in a statement. "To our amazement, we found fruits to be relatively rich in minerals compared to insects."

Citation: Voigt CC, Capps KA, Dechmann DKN, Michener RH, Kunz TH (2008) Nutrition or Detoxification: Why Bats Visit Mineral Licks of the Amazonian Rainforest. PLoS ONE 3(4): e2011. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002011


Dirt-munching helps protect chimps from malaria (January 10, 2008)
Soil ingestion helps chimps protect themselves from malaria, reports a new study published in the journal Naturwissenschaften. Apparently geophagy, as the deliberate behavior is known, "increases the potency of ingested plants with anti-malarial properties."

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Fruit-eating bats ingest dirt to counter toxic plant compounds.