A new study from Tel-Aviv University has revealed that female Egyptian fruit bats living in captivity will trade sex for food. The researchers determined that this may explain why the male bats do not seem to mind when the females snatch food right out of their mouths.
“We found a strong relationship between producer-scrounger feeding interactions and reproduction,” said study co-author Yossi Yovel. “Namely, females bore pups of the males they often scrounged food from.”
The study was focused on observations of three captive bat colonies over the course of a year. The researchers noted that the bats either collected food for themselves or mooched it off of others.
The foraging interactions were initiated many weeks before the mating took place. The females consistently interacted with several males before ultimately choosing one of them to mate with.
To explore their food-for-sex theory, the researchers monitored the producer-scrounger interactions among the captive bats and then tested the paternity of the pups that were born in the colony.
The study clearly showed that females had given birth to offspring fathered by the same males they had scrounged food from.
The researchers were surprised to find that there was almost no overlap between the males preferred by each female. This indicates that the females select males based on personal preferences, which were found to change from year to year.
In future studies, the researchers hope to explore how these relationships evolve and change over longer periods of time. They would also like to investigate the same types of interactions within bat populations in the wild.
The study is published in the journal Current Biology.
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer
Image Credit: A. Dnilovich