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Vertebrates: animals that have backbones or spinal columns. The name comes from the name of the bones that form the spinal or vertebral column, the vertebrae.

Birds, Bats, and Other Mammals Act as Vertebrate Pollinators

Geoffroys tailless bat (Anoura geoffroyi).  Photo by Brock Fenton.
Geoffroy's tailless bat,
Anoura geoffroyi. Photo by
Brock Fenton.

As many as 1,500 vertebrates act as pollinators, including mammals like fruit bats, primates, and marsupials, avian species like hummingbirds, white-winged doves, sunbirds, sugarbirds, and honeyeaters, and even some rodent and reptile species. However, of these vertebrate pollinators at least 82 mammalian and 103 avian pollinators are considered threatened or extinct, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

Did you know? The world's largest known pollinator is the black and white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata variegate).  The lemur is a 7-8 pound tree-dwelling primate with a catlike nose.  Using its hands to open the flower bracts of the traveler's palm (Ravenala madagascariensis) in Madagascar, these lemurs stick their snouts into the tree's flower and collect pollen on their muzzles and fur. The lemurs then move on, inadvertently transporting pollen to the next flower (Reference: Celebrating Wildflowers: Unusual Pollination, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service).

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