Social transmission of novel foraging behavior in bats: frog calls and their referents

The fringe-lipped bat, Trachops cirrhosus, uses prey-emitted acoustic cues (frog calls) to assess prey palatability . Previous experiments show that wild T. cirrhosus brought into the laboratory are flexible in their ability to reverse the associations they form between prey cues and prey quality . Here we asked how this flexibility can be achieved in nature. We quantified the rate at which bats learned to associate the calls of a poisonous toad species with palatable prey by placing bats in three groups: (a) social learning, in which a bat inexperienced with the novel association was allowed to observe an experienced bat; (b) social facilitation, in which two inexperienced bats were presented with the experimental task together; and (c) trial-and-error, in which a single inexperienced bat was presented with the experimental task alone. In the social-learning group, bats rapidly acquired the novel association in an average of 5.3 trials. In the social-facilitation and trial-and-error groups, most bats did not approach the call of the poisonous species after 100 trials. Thus, once acquired, novel associations between prey cue and prey quality could spread rapidly through the bat population by cultural transmission. This is the first case to document predator social learning of an acoustic prey cue.


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Megabats and Microbats: Social transmission of novel foraging behavior in bats: frog calls and their referents
Social transmission of novel foraging behavior in bats: frog calls and their referents
Social transmission of novel foraging behavior in bats frog calls and their referents
Megabats and Microbats
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