Group Hunting—A Reason for Sociality in Molossid Bats?
Many bat species live in groups, some of them in highly complex social systems, but the reasons for sociality in bats remain largely unresolved. Increased foraging efficiency through passive information transfer in species foraging for ephemeral insects has been postulated as a reason for group formation of male bats in the temperate zones. We hypothesized that benefits from group hunting might also entice tropical bats of both sexes to live in groups. Here we investigate whether Molossus molossus, a small insectivorous bat in Panama, hunts in groups. We use a phased antenna array setup to reduce error in telemetry bearings. Our results confirmed that simultaneously radiotracked individuals from the same colony foraged together significantly more than expected by chance. Our data are consistent with the hypothesis that many bats are social because of information transfer between foraging group members. We suggest this reason for sociality to be more widespread than currently assumed. Furthermore, benefits from group hunting may also have contributed to the evolution of group living in other animals specialized on ephemeral food sources.
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