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Shrews choose peanut butter

29 November 2010, 22:15

Cape Town - Cape rock elephant shrews prefer lily nectar to peanut butter, a Stellenbosch University researcher has discovered.

The researcher, Petra Wester, discovered this during a study which showed for the first time that the long-nosed creature is a pollinator of the Pagoda lily in the northern Cederberg.

The lilies - scientific name Whiteheadia bifolia - are found in shady rock crevices and cavities, she said in an article in the latest issue of the journal Science of Nature.

She said two elephant shrews kept in glass terraria containing flowering lily plants visited the flowers more than 50 times over four days, licking the nectar and in the process ending up with noses dusted with pollen.

The animals preferred the nectar over other food - peanut butter with rolled oats and apples - set out to attract them, and over water.

"Data on elephant shrews as pollinators (is) extremely scarce," she said.

"This study is the first to clearly show that Elephantulus edwardii visits flowers for nectar and as a consequence also pollinates them.

"It is very likely that further species of elephant shrews might be pollinators."



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