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Vampire Bat Calls

May 9, 2016

Vocal communication between vampire bats who know each other helps them survive when they don’t get enough to eat.

Transcript

Gerald Carter Bat Food Sharing

A vampire bat shares its blood meal with another bat. (Gerald Carter/CC BY-SA 4.0)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Vampire charity. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

No animal illustrates the concept of sharing quite like world’s only parasitic mammal, the vampire bat. The bats need blood to survive, and finding a meal isn’t easy. If a bat hasn’t eaten in three days, it will starve to death. But according to University of Toronto behavioral ecologist Gerald Carter, its relatives and roostmates will share their own food when a hungry bat calls out for help, like this:

(vampire bat contact call)

GERALD CARTER (University of Toronto):

And these other bats will regurgitate blood meals that they’ve gotten.

HIRSHON:

Carter reports in Animal Behavior that the bats are most attracted to the calls of other bats with whom they regularly share meals, regardless of how closely related they are.

CARTER:

The bats form these stable cooperative relationships independent of kinship.

HIRSHON:

He likens the complex social lives of vampire bats to those of primates. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

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Uwe Schmidt CC BY-SA 4.0 Desmo-kolonie-baum

Vampire bats who roost together tend to gravitate toward the contact calls of roostmates more so than kin. (Uwe Schmidt/CC BY-SA 4.0)