Food sharing in vampire bats: reciprocal help predicts donations more than relatedness or harassment

New paper available here

Key points

  • We re-examined the well-known but controversial case of reciprocal food sharing in vampire bats. What factors predict the decisions of vampire bats to donate food to hungry roost-mates?
  • In collaboration with the Organization for Bat Conservation, we collected a larger sample of food sharing data than ever before under controlled settings. We show that this extreme but natural form of cooperation cannot easily be explained by nepotism or harassment– as argued by some recent high-profile review articles and books.
  • For vampire bats that are equally and highly familiar, reciprocal sharing and social grooming were both better predictors than genetic kinship for the amount and likelihood of food sharing.
  • Surprisingly, donors “voluntarily” initiated the majority of food sharing events, even with non-relatives. Persistent begging was not required.
  • Food sharing appears mutually beneficial for donors and recipients. If so, additional controlled experiments are needed to confirm exactly how the bats’ individual behaviors collectively prevent “cheating” and an evolutionary “tragedy of the commons“.

One thought on “Food sharing in vampire bats: reciprocal help predicts donations more than relatedness or harassment

  1. Gerry Congratulations on your recent paper. What a great journal. So legible. Great format. What came up for me was the potential relationship to material in the recent, current, Smithsonian Mag. regarding spontaneous helpful behavior in inexperienced young infant children. Some bats are more likely to share than others. There had to be a first time ever. I suppose every young vamp must receive from its mother (?). So all have received blood. The Smiths. article also identifies spontaneous malevolent behavior. The parallel might be bats that simply dont share as much. In short i wonder about the ontogeny of sharing. Great work Gerry. ed


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