Animal IQ

Female Vampire Bat Friendships Run Deep

Vampire bats are more often associated with horror stories than heartwarming rom-coms, which is why this might come as some surprise: female vampire bats have tight friendships. Gerry Carter, post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), and colleagues discovered that not only are these bloodthirsty bats loyal to their female family members, but they also form close friendships for support.

Common vampire bat mother with young

Bloody Galentine's

What does sisterly love mean for a vampire bat? According to The Smithsonian, their love comes in the form of grooming and "regurgitated meals of blood." So endearing, really. Carter's research found that when a female vampire bat loses her mother or daughter (a major breadwinner—ahem, bloodwinner), the bat will cope better in their absence if they've built up a network of friendships. Power in numbers.

As co-author Gerald Wilkinson, professor of biology at the University of Maryland, College Park, explains, the females only produce one baby bat (known as a pup) a year. This means that families stay relatively small, so there aren't that many closely related females per group. Since they rely on kin to help source blood, they're really living on the edge. That's where social bet-hedging comes into play. The bats increase their chances of survival by feeding a possible donor or simply by being super popular. The more friends, the better, in vampire bat world.

Vampire bats regurgitate food to feed others.

Be My Friend, Please?

Bats aren't the only animals to practice social hedging. Baboons, for example, will start grooming those in their group following the death of close relative. And, yes—people do this too. The Smithsonian explains that "people living in unpredictable social environments tend to value more friendships over a few stronger ones." The authors hope to translate these findings into the human world by testing to what extent human friendships "are shaped by decisions to invest in relationship quantity or quality." Hold the regurgitated blood meal.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. The Bracken Bat Cave bat preserve is where nearly 10 million bats make their roosts during summer months. 00:05

  2. At its peek, the Bracken Bat Cave houses the largest congregation of warm-blooded animals on the planet. 00:41

  3. Bats are essential ecologically in habitats ranging from deserts to rain forests. 03:51

Written by Curiosity Staff June 23, 2017

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