By Steph Yin
This is how we’re taught to count as children: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Yet our innate grasp of quantities isn’t linear. We’re more likely to experience the world in ratios, like 1, 2, 4, 8, 16. It’s easier for us to see the difference between one and two marbles than 15 and 16 of them.
In this way, we’re a lot like certain types of bats who have shaped the evolution of the plants they pollinate by making proportional judgments about what they’re willing to eat. That’s the finding of a study published in Science on Thursday. The study set out to answer an old evolutionary riddle: How do plants pollinated by bats get away with offering nectar in much lower sugar concentrations than the bats prefer? It turns out the plants are just giving the bats what they appear to want.
Given a choice through experiments, bats choose syrupy nectars, with 60 percent sugar — but the plants they pollinate in the wild produce watery nectars with 20 percent sugar.
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