Social learning describes information transfer between individuals through observation or direct interaction. Bats can live and forage in large groups, sometimes comprising several species, and are thus well suited for investigations of both intraspecific and interspecific information transfer. Although social learning has been documented within several bat species, it has not been shown to occur between species. Furthermore, it is not fully understood what level of interaction between individuals is necessary for social learning in bats. We address these questions by comparing the efficiency of observation versus interaction in intraspecific social learning and by considering interspecific social learning in sympatric bat species. Observers learned from demonstrators to identify food sources using a light cue. We show that intraspecific social learning exists in the greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis (Borkhausen, 1797)) and that direct interaction with a demonstrator more efficiently leads to information transfer than observational learning alone. We also found evidence for interspecific information transfer from M. myotis to the lesser mouse-eared bat (Myotis oxygnathus Monticelli, 1885). Additionally, we opportunistically retested one individual that we recaptured from the wild 1 year after initial learning and found long-term memory of the trained association. Our study adds to the understanding of learning, information transfer, and long-term memory in wild-living animals.
Canadian Journal of Zoology, 2014, Vol 92, Issue 2, p. 129-139
social learning information transfer long-term memory foraging interspecific learning Myotis myotis greater mouse-eared bat Myotis oxygnathus lesser mouse-eared bat FEMALE BECHSTEINS BATS SPEAR-NOSED BATS MYOTIS-MYOTIS PREDATOR RECOGNITION CULTURAL TRANSMISSION HABITAT SELECTION FEEDING-BEHAVIOR WILD POPULATION FIELD CRICKET BLYTHII