Chemical compounds in Neotropical fruit bat-plant interactions

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Abstract

Fruit-eating bats are important seed dispersers in tropical forests. Olfaction seems to be the main sense used by these bats to locate and select food. Previous studies have demonstrated that they identify and select volatile organic compounds, being able to track essential oils of their preferred fruits. However, the specific role played by different compounds in this attraction is largely unknown. Here, we used chromatographic analysis and attraction trials to investigate the molecular basis of foraging in two Neotropical bat species. Both were able to discriminate two classes of compounds, monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes. We suggest that the first class provide the initial signal as they are released only in early stages and the second group is formed by less volatile compounds released in later stages and responsible for maintaining bat interest even in the absence of monoterpenes. These findings provide a unique molecular perspective for this mutualistic interaction with important implications in forest restoration. Specifically, simple mixtures of commercially available terpenes could act as attractants to seed-dispersing bats into degraded landscapes.

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Parolin, L. C., Hansel, F. A., Bianconi, G. V., & Mikich, S. B. (2019). Chemical compounds in Neotropical fruit bat-plant interactions. Mammalian Biology, 94, 92–97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mambio.2018.06.009

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