Optimizing foraging through information transfer in bats with a narrow ecological niche
Here we investigate bats that feed seasonally or year-round on ephemeral resources, i.e. resources that are unpredictable in time and/or space, and how this can lead to increased foraging efficiency through social foraging and information transfer, ultimately helping to explain sociality in these species.
Our main focus is on species that have extreme morphological adaptations to open-aerial foraging and a diet of swarming insects, such as Neotropical Pallas’ free-tailed bat (Molossus molossus), lesser bulldog bats (Noctilio albiventris) or the temperate common noctule (Nyctalus noctula). In a comparative approach we also investigate fruit-eating bats, especially Peter's tentmaking bat (Uroderma bilobatum). Here we use various methods, such as recently developed and miniaturized heart rate transmitters or stable breath isotopes in additional to various movement tracking technologies to come with cost-benefit estimates in these bats that live on the energetic edge.
In the temperate zones, most bats are only seasonally social. Previous research postulates that while the costs of sociality outweigh the benefits throughout most of the year, reproductive females benefit from social thermoregulation during the energy-demanding maternity season. However, for males of the few species that are also reported to form short-lived social groups, social foraging via acoustic information transfer has been postulated. These males occupy the same ecological niche as our tropical study species (i.e. specialization on ephemeral swarming insects) allowing our findings gleaned from our tropical species to inform how social foraging may be an additional reason for sociality in both sexes of the common noctule (Nyctalus noctula) and in males of the parti-coloured bat (Vespertilio murinus).