Social Grooming in Bats: Are Vampire Bats Exceptional?
Carter G, Leffer L (2015) Social Grooming in Bats: Are Vampire Bats Exceptional? PLoS ONE 10(10): e0138430. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138430
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Evidence for long-term cooperative relationships comes from several social birds and mammals. Vampire bats demonstrate cooperative social bonds, and like primates, they maintain these bonds through social grooming. It is unclear, however, to what extent vampires are special among bats in this regard. We compared social grooming rates of common vampire bats Desmodus rotundus and four other group-living bats, Artibeus jamaicensis, Carollia perspicillata, Eidolon helvum and Rousettus aegyptiacus, under the same captive conditions of fixed association and no ectoparasites. We conducted 13 focal sampling sessions for each combination of sex and species, for a total of 1560 presence/absence observations per species. We observed evidence for social grooming in all species, but social grooming rates were on average 14 times higher in vampire bats than in other species. Self-grooming rates did not differ. Vampire bats spent 3.7% of their awake time social grooming (95% CI = 1.5–6.3%), whereas bats of the other species spent 0.1–0.5% of their awake time social grooming. Together with past data, this result supports the hypothesis that the elevated social grooming rate in the vampire bat is an adaptive trait, linked to their social bonding and unique regurgitated food sharing behavior.