acta ethologica

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 107–114 | Cite as

Social interactions among wild female Bechstein's bats (Myotis bechsteinii) living in a maternity colony

  • Gerald KerthEmail author
  • Bettina Almasi
  • Nina Ribi
  • Dominik Thiel
  • Stefan Lüpold
Original Article


Although sociality is common in bats, few studies have investigated individual social behaviour in free-ranging colonies. This study quantifies social interactions among wild female Bechstein's bats (Myotis bechsteinii) belonging to one maternity colony. Our main goal was to analyse allogrooming and nose rubbing, which are both regularly displayed by adult females. Based on data of individually marked bats with known degrees of pairwise relatedness, we suggest that allogrooming has both a social and a hygienic function. Females groomed colony mates mainly on parts of the body that are difficult to reach by a bat itself. Thus, allogrooming may function to remove ectoparasites from inaccessible body parts. Allogrooming was rare compared to self-grooming (on average 0.7% vs 37.7% of a female's total observation time), and there was no significant correlation between the rate at which a bat groomed itself and the frequency with which it was groomed by conspecifics. Therefore, we assume that allogrooming also has a social purpose in addition to its assumed hygienic function. We suggest that allogrooming could strengthen social bonds among colony members that live together for many years. Mothers and adult daughters groomed each other preferentially. Thus, allogrooming may reflect special mother–daughter bonds. Nose rubbing occurred mainly within minutes (median: 80 s) after the arrival of a female in a night roost, and there was no correlation with relatedness. Therefore, it probably allows recognition of colony mates and may also be a greeting behaviour.


Allogrooming Chiroptera Nose rubbing Social behaviour 



We are very thankful to M. Fierz and K. Safi who made the videotapes that we used for our behavioural analyses. We thank B. König for her constant support, G. Anzenberger, C. Hemelrijk, B. König, M. Manser, A. McElligott, K. Reckardt, K. Safi, and two anonymous referees for helpful comments on our manuscript and C. Hemelrijk for providing us with the software to run her Kr test. This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF, 31-59556.99).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag and ISPA 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerald Kerth
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Bettina Almasi
    • 1
  • Nina Ribi
    • 1
  • Dominik Thiel
    • 1
  • Stefan Lüpold
    • 1
  1. 1.Zoologisches InstitutUniversität ZürichZürichSwitzerland
  2. 2.VerhaltensbiologieUniversität ZürichZürichSwitzerland

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