Data from: Insectivorous bats integrate social information about species identity, conspecific activity, and prey abundance to estimate cost-benefit ratio of interactions
Lewanzik, Daniel; Sundaramurthy, Arun K.; Goerlitz, Holger R. (2019), Data from: Insectivorous bats integrate social information about species identity, conspecific activity, and prey abundance to estimate cost-benefit ratio of interactions, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.gp65g2t
Animals can use inadvertent social information to improve fitness‐relevant decisions, for instance about where to forage or with whom to interact. Since bats emit high‐amplitude species‐specific echolocation calls when flying, they provide a constant flow of inadvertent social information to others who can decode that acoustic information. Of particular interest is the rate of feeding buzzes – characteristic call sequences preceding any prey capture – which correlates with insect abundance.
Previous studies investigating eavesdropping in bats yielded very different and in part contradictory results likely because they commonly focused on single species only, differed substantially in playback buzz rate, and did usually not account for (baseline) conspecific activity. Our goal was to overcome these limitations and systematically test which inadvertent social information bats integrate when eavesdropping on others and how this integration affects space‐use and both intra‐ and interspecific interactions, respectively.
We used a community‐wide approach and investigated the effects of a broad range of playback feeding buzz rates and conspecific activity on eavesdropping responses in 24 bat species combinations in the wild.
For the first time, we reveal that finely graded and density‐dependent eavesdropping responses are not limited to particular foraging styles or call types, but instead are ubiquitous among insectivorous bats. All bats integrated social information about calling species identity, prey abundance, and conspecific activity to estimate the cost‐benefit ratio of prospective interactions, yet in a species‐specific manner. The effect of buzz rate was multifaceted, as bats responded differently to different buzz rates and responses were additionally modulated by heterospecific recognition. Conspecific activity, in contrast, had a negative effect on the eavesdropping responses of all bats.
These findings can explain the inconsistent results of previous studies and advance our understanding of the complex nature of con‐ and heterospecific interactions within bat communities. A comprehensive understanding of how bats incorporate social information into their decision‐making will help researchers to explain species distribution patterns and eventually to unravel mechanisms of species coexistence.