Zoology: bats, loyal friends

Bats (“Desmodus rotundus”), in Jardín, Colombia, in February 2019.

Bats never cease to amaze us. Sensory capacities, longevity, resistance to pathogens… By looking at the some 1,400 species that make up this group of flying mammals, science is gradually bringing to light a veritable continent of complex behaviors. Thus, beyond their physiological particularities, chiroptera have become a privileged field for the study of animal social relations. Colonies of hundreds, of thousands of individuals, which come apart and come back together during the year; parents who collectively raise the little ones, look after them, feed them; females grooming, warming up. A repertoire worthy of primates or large marine mammals. “But with a brain the size of your fingertip”marvels the ethologist Cédric Sueur, lecturer at the University of Strasbourg.

Reputed to be particularly faithful, the creature pushes altruism to the point of sharing with its best “friends” the blood it takes from its prey

So researchers are trying to understand what holds these groups together and how they form. “Usually in animals it comes down to three main factors: relatedness, dominance and age”, recalls Cédric Sueur. We interact with our parents, our brothers, our sisters; with his “masters”; with people of the same age. “You learn about social life with your little friends, like at the crèche, and you create bonds there”says the researcher.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Bats, birds almost like any other

Gerald Carter’s team at Ohio State University chose the image of “university rooms” to describe his latest find, published in the journal Biology Letters, April 5. The temporary closeness imposed on American students in these accommodations often forges lasting friendships, widely studied by sociology. The researchers therefore reproduced the situation, at the Smithsonian Institute in Panama, with their favorite species: Desmodus rotundus, in other words, the vampire bat. Reputed to be particularly faithful, the creature pushes altruism to the point of sharing with its best “friends” the blood it takes from its prey.

” Out of sight out of mind “

Twenty-one of them were captured in three distinct groups, then placed together for six weeks in the same aviary. The researchers then formed seven trios, made up of individuals from the three different original colonies, which they isolated for a week. Finally, the twenty-one mammals were reassembled and tracked for nine weeks using infrared cameras.

You have 31.64% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.

Leave a Comment