Many animals have their own way of forming relationships with other animals. Even vampire bats have their own, but strange, habits that enable them to form and strengthen social bonds. To understand more of their habits, researchers studied a group of vampire bats, the only species of bats in the world that feasts on mammal blood.
|Credits: Science News|
The team, led by Gerald Carter, an assistant professor of evolution, ecology, and organismal biology at Ohio State University, studied two sets of vampire bats that came from entirely separate geographies. This aims to make sure that none of the bats knew each other. After introducing the two groups of vampire bats, the researchers documented their behavior for 15 months. One of the findings showed that the social bonding between the groups started with unfamiliar members grooming each other.
|Credits: All That’s Interesting|
According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, researchers think that this kind of social ritual offers more than convenience. “Even if you remove all ectoparasites from their fur, they still groom each other more than necessary for just hygiene. We think of social grooming as a kind of currency – a way to gain tolerance and bond with another individual,” Carter said.
|Credits: The Scientist Magazine|
After getting comfortable with each other, the team noticed that the bats moved on to another social ritual that was less common: exchanging blood meals. They share or exchange meals through direct contact between their mouths. A recent study published in the journal Current Biology described this behavior as “visually resembling a sort of French kiss.” The researchers discovered that nearly 15% of the studied bats were engaging in this social behavior with a previously unfamiliar partner.
“Food sharing in vampire bats is like how a lot of birds regurgitate food for their offspring. But what’s special with vampire bats is they do this for other adults, eventually even with some previous strangers,” Carter said.