Straw-coloured fruit bats love fruits such as sugar plums above everything.
Photo: © MPI f. Ornithology/ Ziegler

03.05.2019

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An international team of researchers have now calculated the ecological and financial benefits of straw-coloured fruit bats in Africa. They found that the bats, by disseminating seeds from the fruits they eat during their long-distance flights at night, could make forests regrow by 800 hectares every year.

For the first time, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell/Germany, together with their colleagues from Sweden and Ghana, have calculated the ecological and financial benefits of straw-coloured fruit bats in Africa. Every night, individuals of this bat species fly long distances to their feeding grounds in the course of which they disseminate the seeds of the fruits they consume.

According to the researchers, a colony of 150,000 animals disseminate more than 300,000 small seeds in a single night. This is sufficient to kick-start the regrowth of 800 hectares of forest – for a single colony. Thus, both forests and humans could benefit from better protection for these creatures, which are primarily at risk from hunting.

Straw-coloured fruit bats (Eidolon helvum) have a wingspan of up to 80 centimetres and feed on nectar and fruit. They sleep during the day, hanging upside down in the crowns of old trees, and become active at sunset when they set off in search of food.

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