Female bats meet up with roostmates while foraging for food, cooperate on hunting trips, and even chat with each other while sharing a meal, according to a new study.Scientists fitted tiny “backpack computers” to 50 female vampire bats, 23 of which had been in captivity for two years and 27 of which were free-roaming.
They then returned the bats to their natural roost on a cattle pasture in Tolé, Panama, where they remained for two weeks.”Everything we’ve studied with vampire bats has focused on what they do inside a roost. “Until now, no one has really known whether these social relationships serve any function outside of the roost,” study co-author Gerald Carter, assistant professor of evolution, ecology, and organismal biology at The Ohio State University, said in a press release. Researchers discovered that “closely bonded” roostmates — who groomed each other and even shared regurgitated blood meals — did not leave the roost together, but instead met up far from home when they went hunting.
They even appeared to “speak” to each other using three distinct types of calls, sometimes sharing a meal from the same cow while calling. Vampire bats feed on the blood of sleeping animals such as birds, cattle, and even humans in warm tropical areas such as Panama, where the study was conducted.While the bats were foraging, the scientists noticed three distinct call types. There were “‘downward sweeping’ social calls, antagonistic ‘buzz’ calls, and ‘n-shaped’ feeding calls,” the latter of which had never been recorded in captive or wild bats.
The researchers believe that “bats may meet up with trusted partners during foraging trips to share information about hosts or access to an open wound,” and that social bonds between bats in the roost aid in their success at obtaining meals, allowing them to join forces to compete for food resources with other bats.”Knowing how they interact with a completely different group of bats out in the pasture can help us understand what’s going on inside the colony.” “If they get into fights every time they leave the roost, it can increase the amount of cooperation within the colony,” Carter said.Unsurprisingly, the bats who spent the most time “hanging out” in the roost also spent the most time foraging together.
In the press release, the researchers ask, “How far does ‘friendship’ go?” “Vampire bat social bonds are not limited to grooming and food sharing at the roost; bonded individuals even hunt together, highlighting the complexity of their social relationships.”
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