Summer 2016 updates

Our two undergraduate interns Yeli Garcia (Earlham) and Emily Dong (Cornell) just completed their independent projects and finished their seasons in Panama. Yeli’s project was entitled “Guano scent as a cue for roost-finding in vampire bats” and Emily’s was “Co-feeding and food sharing in vampire bats”. They both worked hard, did a terrific job, and I’m quite proud. Emily and Yeli were funded by NSF through the Research-for-Undergraduates (REU) program.

PhD student Sebastian (Basti) Stockmaier (UT Austin) also wrapped up data collection for his project on inducing sickness behavior in vampire bats and measuring the effects on physiology and cooperative behavior.

Undergraduate intern Rachel Moon (Harvard) is currently working on linking contact call structure of vampire bats to group membership and kinship.IMG_0896Above: Yeli Garcia, Emily Dong, Gerry, Basti Stockmaier, and Rachel Moon

Earlier in the year, PhD student Gloria Gessinger used hi-speed video and ultrasonic recordings to test whether vampire bats produce echolocation calls through the nose or mouth. PhD student Andrea Rummel also did some pilot tests of how vampire bats land on the ceiling. Postdoc Simon Ripperger conducted a pilot study tracking wild vampire bats with proximity sensors.

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 9.57.18 AM

Above: Simon and I setting up base stations for automated data collection from free-ranging vampire bats.

During his time here,  Simon placed cameras on the ground outside of several tunnel roosts to look at frog-eating bats coming and going. One of the roosts was also home to a lone male vampire bat who detected the camera immediately (see video below).

In collaboration with Damien Farine and Gabriele Schino, I will soon be writing up a study on detecting the relative ease of reciprocity and kinship effects using data from vampires and primates. Finally, my two long-term projects on 1) reciprocity and 2) development of novel food-sharing bonds will continue into next year.

My work in Panama to date has been conducted in collaboration with my co-PI’s Rachel Page (STRI) and John Ratcliffe (U Toronto), and I’m currently applying for new postdoc fellowships.

2 thoughts on “Summer 2016 updates

  1. Hi Gerald

    Thank you for the update. I may have told you I am a docent at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. I spend most of my time at our bat exhibit. We have two old world fruit bat species.

    We have P. vampyrus and P. pumilus. At most exhibits our guests do not notice the Latin names of our animals. However at the bats they focus on the “vampyrus” signage. I need to tell people that our bats eat fruit. That opens up an opportunity to talk about vampires. . I am doing my best to separate them from Dracula. I tell people about your research on how the bats will share a blood meal with another who was not successful in feeding.

    Speaking about wild vampires is there any research on successful an individual bat is getting a meal. For example ….55% of the time a vampire is unsuccessful or 15% or ???%.

    I enjoyed the video you posted. You say the vampire immediately noticed the camera. What behaviors were a result of him detecting the camera?

    I am preparing a 1.5 hours presentation on bats for docent continued education. Do know of any good video that I can use for my presentation? Also how serious is rabies in vampire bats? I have an old book on the subject so it is not up to date/

    Thank you for studying vampire bats. I think they are amazing.



    Mary D. Smith

    p.s. If you ever make it to Columbus, let me know so I can arrange a VIP tour for you at the zoo.


    1. Yes, it’s funny about the names of many nonvampire bats: “vampyrus”, “vampyrum”, “vampyrodes”. Early naturalists heard tales of blood-drinking bats and assumed that many of the bats drank blood. Here in Latin America, many uneducated people still assume that all bats are vampire bats, but that has changed a lot with massive education efforts.

      Wilkinson found that on a given night, about 1 of every 14 older adults (7%) would return to the roost with an empty stomach, but one in three younger bats less than 2 years of age would fail to feed (33%).

      I assumed the bat could see the camera because he flew up to the camera and landed in front of it echolocating. We caught him later and he was a lone male. Rabies transmitted by vampire bats can spring up in some areas at certain times (an outbreak). A good review is here.

      Here is a good video clip explaining vampire bat food sharing. and a video of food sharing. and a general video on bats.


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