Learning where to feed: the use of social information in flower-visiting Pallas’ long-tongued bats (Glossophaga soricina)
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Social learning is a widespread phenomenon among vertebrates that influences various patterns of behaviour and is often reported with respect to foraging behaviour. The use of social information by foraging bats was documented in insectivorous, carnivorous and frugivorous species, but there are little data whether flower-visiting nectarivorous bats (Phyllostomidae: Glossophaginae) can acquire information about food from other individuals. In this study, we conducted an experiment with a demonstrator-observer paradigm to investigate whether flower-visiting Pallas’ long-tongued bats (Glossophaga soricina) are able to socially learn novel flower positions via observation of, or interaction with, knowledgeable conspecifics. The results demonstrate that flower-visiting G. soricina are able to use social information for the location of novel flower positions and can thereby reduce energy-costly search efforts. This social transmission is explainable as a result of local enhancement; learning bats might rely on both visual and echo-acoustical perception and are likely to eavesdrop on auditory cues that are emitted by feeding conspecifics. We additionally tested the spatial memory capacity of former demonstrator bats when retrieving a learned flower position, and the results indicate that flower-visiting bats remember a learned flower position after several weeks.
KeywordsChiroptera Demonstrator-observer paradigm Local enhancement Social facilitation Social transmission Spatial memory
We thank Ulrike Stehle and Sebastian Zschunke for maintenance of the bat colonies, for providing technical equipment and for their general helpfulness. We thank Maria Eckenweber and Patrick Cvecko for fruitful discussions and critical comments on the manuscript. We further thank Dr. Cheng, Dr. Nachev and one anonymous reviewer for their time and helpful suggestions. This work was supported by the German Baden-Württemberg Stiftung, Eliteprogramme for Postdocs (M.K.).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.
All applicable international, national and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
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