New preprint: Evidence for unfamiliar kin recognition in vampire bats

… by Simon Ripperger, Rachel Page, Frieder Mayer, and Gerry Carter. I would love to get early feedback on this one, so please email me if you have any. We submitted it to Biology Letters. Here’s the preprint (what’s a preprint?) at BioRxiv:

Common vampire bat (Traer Scott)

ABSTRACT: Kin discrimination allows organisms to preferentially cooperate with kin, reduce kin competition, and avoid inbreeding. In vertebrates, kin discrimination often occurs through prior association. There is less evidence for recognition of unfamiliar kin. Here, we present the first evidence of unfamiliar kin recognition in bats. We captured female vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) from a single roost, allowed them to breed in captivity for 22 months, then released 17 wild-caught females and six captive-born daughters back into the same wild roost. We then used custom-built proximity sensors to track the free-ranging social encounters among the previously captive bats and 27 tagged control bats from the same roost. Using microsatellite-based relatedness estimates, we found that previously captive bats preferentially associated with related control bats, and that captive-born bats preferentially associated with unfamiliar kin among control bats. Closer analyses showed that these unfamiliar-kin-biased associations were not caused by mothers or other familiar close kin, because the kinship bias was evident even when those bats were not nearby. This striking evidence for unfamiliar kin recognition in vampire bats warrants further investigation and provides new hypotheses for how cooperative relationships might be driven synergistically by both social experience and phenotypic similarity.

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