Similar is not the same: Social calls of conspecifics are more effective in attracting wild bats to day roosts than those of other bat species
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- Schöner, C.R., Schöner, M.G. & Kerth, G. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2010) 64: 2053. doi:10.1007/s00265-010-1019-8
Many bat species regularly need to find new day roosts as they require numerous shelters each breeding season. It has been shown that bats exchange information about roosts among colony members, and use echolocation and social calls of conspecifics in order to find roosts. However, it is unclear if wild bats discriminate between social calls of conspecifics and other bat species while searching for roosts. Furthermore, the extent that bats are attracted to potential roosts by each of these two call types is unknown. We present a field experiment showing that social calls of conspecifics and other bat species both attract bats to roosts. During two summers, we played back social calls of Bechstein’s bats (Myotis bechsteinii) and Natterer’s bats (Myotis nattereri) from different bat boxes that can serve as roosts for these species. All experimental bat boxes were monitored with infrared video to identify the approaching bat species. Three species (M. bechsteinii, M. nattereri, and Plecotus auritus) approached the boxes significantly more often during nights when bat calls were played compared to nights without playbacks. Bechstein’s bats and Natterer’s bats were both more attracted to social calls of conspecifics than of the other species, whereas P. auritus did not discriminate between calls of either Myotis species. Only Bechstein’s bats entered experimental boxes and only at times when calls from conspecifics were played. Our findings show that wild bats discriminate between social calls of conspecifics and other bat species although they respond to both call types when searching for new roosts.