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World’s most controversial fruit may depend on giant bats for pollination

By February 19, 2018

While we debate whether the durian is the best or worst food on the planet, it turns out this wonderful oddity may require healthy populations of flying fox for survival.

Durian. Depending on whom you talk to it’s either the most beloved or the most despised fruit on the planet. It suffers no moderation, no wishy-washiness. It is the king of fruits or the worst thing you’ve ever tasted. Due to its potent odour – delicate and sweet to its advocates and sewage-like to its detractors – durian has been banned from airplanes, subways, and hotels (though punishments appear light if non-existent). But a recent study in Ecology and Evolution finds there may be no durians at all without bats: big, threatened bats. The scientists found that flying foxes – bats in the Pteropus and Acerodon genus and the largest in the world – are likely vital pollinators for the polarising durian.

“We already knew that flying foxes feed on durian flowers, but there was this unsubstantiated belief, even among some researchers, that flying foxes just destroyed the flowers,” said Sheema Abdul Aziz, the lead researcher on the project that was done as part of her PhD at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in France. “It doesn’t help that a durian flower only blooms for one night, then falls off the tree naturally, regardless of whether it’s been pollinated or not. When people see all the flowers on the ground in the morning, they think it’s the bats.”

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