FunNature & AnimalBats give each other deep kisses to establish social...

Bats give each other deep kisses to establish social bonds

There are all kinds of strange habits among animals related to the formation and strengthening of social ties. Elephants use water wells, birds dance, and vampire bats ( Desmodus rotundus ) share blood-soaked French kisses.

There are three species of bat that feed solely on blood, which we know as hematophagy : the common vampire, the hairy-legged vampire, and the white-winged vampire. Now, a team of scientists from Ohio State University (USA) has discovered that, among vampire bats, regurgitation of blood in the mouth of a companion is a sign of maximum confidence.

Blood-sucking animals (such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, or lice) rely mainly on the blood of animals, and as for vampire bats, if they cannot feed for three days, they could starve to death.

“It’s not just sharing in the sense of ‘I have a large portion of food and I’m also going to let you eat from the same plate as me,'” said Gerald Carter, a behavioral ecologist and lead writer for Current Biology magazine. “Actually , I am going to take part of the food that I have already eaten and I will give it to them as if it were my offspring, ” the expert clarifies.

This deep kiss drenched in freshly drained blood thus serves to form social bonds with unknown members of his refuge . Shocking as it may be, it is excellent proof of how incredibly prosocial these creatures are.

“Sharing food for vampire bats is like the act of many birds regurgitating food for their young. But what’s special about vampire bats is that they do this for other adults, eventually even some strangers.”

We could say that it would be the gesture of a true bond, something that we could even call friendship. Social grooming and food sharing can build trust among unrelated bats to form life-saving bonds that can last a lifetime.

“We assume that food donations are an adaptive trait, which means that in the long run it has some benefit for the donor,” Carter continued . “Maybe that benefit is that they are creating a relationship that is going to feed them and bring something positive later.”

To test how these links arise, Carter and his colleagues examined a group of bats from Las Pavas and Tolé, Panama, two geographically distant sites, which meant the animals were unfamiliar with each other. The bats were placed in pairs , one from each location, or in small mixed cohorts. For each group, the researchers withheld food from one of the bats and observed how it interacted with its cage mates. The experiment lasted 15 months. Several bats, particularly those that were in pairs, began to groom more over time, and in some cases, this led to sharing blood with the most malnourished companions. Almost 15% of the bats were observed practicing this deep blood kiss with a previously unknown partner. Not being familiar with each other increased the need for some bond to share blood.

The researchers suggest that this strategic friendship technique can also be subconsciously applied to humans , as human relationships may be more conditional than we’d like to admit.


Referencia: Current Biology, Carter et al.: “Development of new food-sharing relationships in vampire bats” , DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.01.055

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