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A fruitful endeavor: scent cues and echolocation behavior used by Carollia castanea to find fruit

By Leith B. Leiser-Miller, Zofia A. Kaliszewska, M Elise Lauterbur, Brianna Mann, Jeffrey A. Riffell, Sharlene Santana

Posted 29 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/532614 (published DOI: 10.1093/iob/obaa007)

Frugivores have evolved sensory and behavioral adaptations that allow them to find ripe fruit effectively, but the relative importance of different senses in varying foraging scenarios is poorly known. Within Neotropical ecosystems, short-tailed fruit bats (Carollia: Phyllostomidae) are abundant nocturnal frugivores, relying primarily on plants of the genus Piper as a food resource. Previous research has demonstrated Carollia employ olfaction and echolocation to locate Piper fruit, but it is unknown how their sensory use and foraging decisions are influenced by the complex diversity of chemical cues that fruiting plants produce. Using wild C. castanea and their preferred food, Piper scintillans , we conducted behavioral experiments to test two main hypotheses: (1) foraging decisions in C. castanea are primarily driven by ripe fruit scent and secondarily by vegetation scent, and (2) C. castanea re-weight their sensory inputs to account for available environmental cues, such that bats rely more heavily on echolocation in the absence of adequate scent cues. Our results suggest that C. castanea requires olfactory information and relies almost exclusively on ripe fruit scent to make foraging attempts. Ripe fruit scent is chemically distinct from vegetation scent in P. scintillans, with a greater abundance of β-caryophyllene, germacrene D and β-elemene, and a few unique compounds. Although variation in echolocation call parameters was independent of scent cue presence, bats emitted longer and more frequent echolocation calls in trials where no fruit scent was present. Altogether, these results highlight the adaptations, plasticity, and potential constraints in the sensory system of neotropical fruit bats.

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