Vampire Bats “French Kiss” With Mouthfuls Of Blood To Develop Social Bonds

Vampire Bats "French Kiss" With Mouthfuls Of Blood To Develop Social Bonds

Vampire Bats “French Kiss” With Mouthfuls Of Blood To Develop Social Bonds

There are all sorts of strange behaviours that animals establish and strengthen social relations. Elephants use watering holes. Birds dance. Vampire bats share blood-drenched “French kisses.” Dance of the birds. “French kisses” exchanged by vampires bats blood.

According to IFLScience, scientists have found that a social ritual among blood-sucking vampire bats involves sharing mouthfuls of blood.

The authors of this research describe a new analysis of this behaviour, published in the Current Biology journal, is described by the study’s authors as “visually resembling a sort of French kiss.”

According to Gerald Carter, the lead author of the new study and an assistant Professor on Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology at Ohio State University said that “Food sharing with vampire bats is like how birds regurgitate food for their offspring.” “But what’s special with vampire bats, they do so particularly for other adults, eventually even with some previous strangers.”

Carters team researched a group of vampire-bats, The only bat species in the world feasting on mammal blood— consisting of two sets of roosts — Desmodus rotundus. Both roosts originated is entirely different geographies, which made it unlikely that any of the members of the two roosts knew each other.

Once the two sets of vampire bats were introduced, researchers documented their behavior over the span of 15 months. First, the social bonding began with unfamiliar members grooming each other, a common social behavior observed in other species like primates.

Then, presumably, after the bats became more comfortable with their new cohort, they moved on to another social ritual that was less common: exchanging blood meals. Not only did the vampire bats share meals, but they also did it through direct contact between their mouths.

The social ritual of sharing blood meals is also performed between bats unfamiliar with each other.

More surprisingly, nearly 15 percent of the studied bats were engaging in this social behavior with a previously unfamiliar partner.

Both the social rituals of grooming and sharing food provide necessary uses among animals within a shared group. Grooming helps the bats get rid of parasites from their skin which slows the spread of disease. Meanwhile, sharing food is essential to prevent members of the group from starvation.

In the case of vampire bats, they need to drink blood at least every three days.

“We go from bats starting as strangers from different colonies to groupmates that act to save each other’s life,” Carter said of the study. But researchers think that these social rituals offer more than convenience.

“Even if you remove all ectoparasites from their fur, they still groom each other more than necessary for just hygiene,” Carter pointed out. “We think of social grooming as a kind of currency – a way to gain tolerance and bond with another individual.”

These acts of mutually-beneficial behavior between animals of the same group also suggest a strategic way to test out a potential friend or mate before fully committing to a relationship.

This strategic relationship building was first noted by researchers in the journal Nature back in 1998 and, as Carter explained, it makes quite a lot of sense.

“When you make a cooperative investment in another individual, there is a kind of risk, because if you have a bad partner, you can be even worse off than if you had just avoided them altogether,” Carter said.

“So, what you could do is invest a little bit to test the waters. Then, if they invest back in you, that’s a signal to ramp up your investment, and so on.”

This strategic relationship building could explain why the vampire bats began their bonding through grooming before shifting to a more substantial ritual like blood meal sharing.

Next, Carter and his team plan to assess how bats choose their partners through a series of experiments.

“When two bats are unfamiliar, we have the opportunity to make a good partner or a bad partner and really see how that affects how the relationships form,” he said. “So what we’re trying to do now is use a variety of methods to really manipulate the relationships.”

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