I just arrived in Panama and I’m very excited to be here.
I recently joined a collaboration between Rachel Page’s lab in Gamboa, Panama and Yossi Yovel’s lab in Tel Aviv Israel. Rachel studies the fringe-lipped or frog-eating bat, Trachops cirrhosus, a bat that eavesdrops on the mating signals of its prey, frogs and katydids. This system is a classic story in behavioral ecology, and an important model for understanding the evolution of behavioral and cognitive traits under both natural and sexual selection. Mike Ryan has long studied the dilemma faced by male túngara frogs – to attract mates the male frogs must call conspicuously, but the types of male frog calls that are more attractive to female frogs are also more attractive to the bats. Rachel and her lab have used controlled experiments to study the bat side of this story. She has showed that the bats can (1) rapidly alter associations about prey cue and quality, (2) adaptively switch between social and asocial learning strategies, and (3) learn from each other in such a way that information can be quickly spread via cultural transmission.
Yossi has developed miniaturized tracking devices (<4 g) that can be mounted on wild bats. These sophisticated tags contain a tiny GPS coupled with miniaturized ultrasonic microphones. They measure several behaviors that are crucial for describing foraging strategy, including the bat’s own biosonar signals and the signals of nearby conspecifics. The device will also record the vocalizations of frogs being targeted, and it will even record the chewing sounds after a successful bat attack.
This month, we are testing how well these tags work with Trachops. Thanks to Rachel, we know a great amount about information use and decision-making by these bats on a small scale. Hopefully, Yossi’s tags will tell use more about foraging trajectories and strategies in the bat’s natural habitat on a much larger scale.
I am also still writing up and submitting my last manuscripts from my PhD vampire work (on use of contact calls) and hope to be finished with that this summer as well.