, Volume 47, Issue 1-2, pp 29-40

Storage and display of odour by male Saccopteryx bilineata (Chiroptera, Emballonuridae)

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Abstract

Males of the sac-winged bat, Saccopteryx bilineata, actively fill their propatagial sacs with secretions from the genital region, the gular gland, urine and saliva. From our observations and those of Starck we deduce that propatagial sacs in S. bilineata do not have a glandular function, but are instead organs for the storage and display of odours. In addition to the already known “salting” and hovering behaviour of male S. bilineata, we describe in detail how odour is fanned to roosting individuals during the complex, stereotypic hovering displays. S. bilineata males also coat the fur of their backs with saliva using the wing tip and might scent-mark territory boundaries. “Yawning” may represent a visual as well as an olfactory cue. Odour seems to play an important role in the social communication of S. bilineata and in other emballonurids, as revealed by the broad distribution of wing sacs in this family. S. bilineata males display odour during energetically costly hovering flights in front of females. We demonstrate that the number of hovering displays increases with harem size. The mating effort of S. bilineata males comprises a multimodal signalling behaviour. Although males defend harem territories in which females gather, females seem to be able to choose the father of their progeny freely among the males of a colony. This may have led to the evolution of the complex mating displays by male S. bilineata.

Received: 9 December 1998 / Received in revised form: 6 May 1999 / Accepted: 13 June 1999