Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Planet Earth

Bat Spit

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

The sugary, acidic diet of a fruit bat would corrode the teeth of just about any other mammal. But fruit bats, like this one shown devouring a fig, don’t have problems with tooth decay. Anatomist Elizabeth Dumont of Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine thought that the saliva of fruit bats might buffer the acids in their food, thus protecting their teeth. To find out, she measured the acidity of saliva from a number of species of fruit bat. In some bats the pH dropped close to 5.5, the acidity at which human teeth begin to decay. To Dumont’s surprise, the saliva of some old-world fruit bats was just as acidic after their food had cleared the mouth and digestive system, 20 minutes later, and remained so for six hours. She isn’t sure why the bats’ teeth don’t rot, but she thinks the acidity of their saliva may help bats extract all the nutrients they can from their food. Fruit is a low-quality food, Dumont says, so the bats draw a little more food out in the short 20 minutes they have to get it.

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In