Bats without borders: Predators learn novel prey cues from other predatory species

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Science Advances  21 Mar 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 3, eaaq0579
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaq0579

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Learning from others allows individuals to adapt rapidly to environmental change. Although conspecifics tend to be reliable models, heterospecifics with similar resource requirements may be suitable surrogates when conspecifics are few or unfamiliar with recent changes in resource availability. We tested whether Trachops cirrhosus, a gleaning bat that localizes prey using their mating calls, can learn about novel prey from conspecifics and the sympatric bat Lophostoma silvicolum. Specifically, we compared the rate for naïve T. cirrhosus to learn an unfamiliar tone from either a trained conspecific or heterospecific alone through trial and error or through social facilitation. T. cirrhosus learned this novel cue from L. silvicolum as quickly as from conspecifics. This is the first demonstration of social learning of a novel acoustic cue in bats and suggests that heterospecific learning may occur in nature. We propose that auditory-based social learning may help bats learn about unfamiliar prey and facilitate their adaptive radiation.

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