Bat lab stories

Hearing test for tropical bats

Hearing sensitivity of bats may explain their great diversity in tropical forests

Inga Geipel discusses the role of hearing sensitivity in niche differentiation, and how bringing hearing sensitivity testing equipment to bats in the rainforest can shed light on how so many bat species can co-exist in the Neotropics: Geipel I, Lattenkamp EZ, Dixon MM, Wiegrebe L, Page RA. 2021. Hearing sensitivity: an underlying mechanism for niche differentiation in gleaning bats. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 118, e2024943118. PDF

Murciélagos y ranas

Llamado para conseguir pareja o llamado para comer

Damond Kyllo’s BAT FROG book is now available, not only in printed form, but also, thanks animation by Andy Quitmeyer, as video! Check out the English and Spanish versions here, and go to our Resources for Kids page to print your own copy of this beautiful book…. Huge thanks to the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute for the funding to make this happen.

Foster care

Baby vampire bat adopted by mom’s best friend

Imran Razik discusses a sad but serendipitous event that happened during his observations of vampire bats in the Gamboa flight cage. When the mother of a 19-day old pup unexpectedly died, her ‘best friend’ adopted the orphan. She started lactating and succeeded in raising the baby, who survived through the end of the observations. While adoption in vampire bats has been documented before, what Imran was able to do was truly impressive. Because he had intensively observed the behavioral interactions of this colony for six hours a day over a period of  four months, he was able to carefully document the social behavior of each individual. It turned out that the two adult females had had a close bond. BD (the one who eventually adopted the baby) groomed and fed Lilith (the one who died) more than any other bat in the colony; Lilith in turn groomed BD almost the same amount. Imran’s results suggest that non-kin adoption can be motivated by a prior history of cooperative interactions. Also read Gerry Carter’s excellent blog post on this subject. Razik I, Brown BKG, Page RA, Carter GG. 2021. Non-kin adoption in the common vampire bat. Royal Society Open Science. doi: 10.1098/rsos.201927. PDF

Redefining sexual dimorphism

Is odor the secret to bats’ sex appeal?

Mariana Muñoz-Romo discusses the massive literature review she conducted, synthesizing decades of research, identifying diverse glands and non-glandular odor-producing structures across the Order Chiroptera. Mariana’s review unveils the extraordinary sexual dimorphism that has been observed in Chiroptera to date, identifying not only target body parts where sexually dimorphic traits are likely to be found, but also critical avenues for future investigation and discoveries: Muñoz-Romo M, Page RA, Kunz TH. 2021. Redefining the study of sexual dimorphism in bats: following the odour trail. Mammal Review. doi: 10.1111/mam.12232. PDF

Bat Hormones

Male bats with high testosterone levels have large forearm crusts when females are fertile

Mariana Muñoz-Romo discusses recent discoveries documenting high levels of testosterone in male fringe-lipped bats that exhibit large forearm crusts. Large crusts and high testosterone levels are especially pronounced when females are in estrus, corroborating behavioral evidence that the forearm crust plays a critical role in reproduction: Muñoz-Romo M, Flores V, Ramoni-Perazzi P, Page RA. 2020. The crust of a male: does size matter when females are fertile? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 74: 1-10. PDF

Worth a thousand words

Amy Koehler transforms bat science into bat art

We were delighted to host Amy Koehler as our first Bat Lab Artist-in-Residence. Here, Amy discusses her career path and why art plays such an important role in science.

Guano secrets

DNA in fringe-lipped bat poop reveals unexpected eating habits

Patricia Jones discusses the secrets that can be discovered through the DNA found in poop in their new article: Jones PL, Divoll TJ, Dixon MM, Aparicio D, Cohen G, Mueller U, Ryan MJ, Page RA. 2020. Sensory ecology of the frog-eating bat, Trachops cirrhosus, from DNA metabarcoding and behavior. Behavioral Ecology. Illustration by Bat Lab Artist-in-Residence, Amy Koehler.