These fruit bats trade food for sex

May 23, 2019

Egyptian fruit bat females living in captivity will consistently take food right from the mouths of their male peers. Now, the team that made that discovery is back with new evidence to explain why the males don't mind. As reported in the journal Current Biology on May 23, those males are often repaid with sex--and offspring.

"We found a strong relationship between producer-scrounger feeding interactions and reproduction," says Yossi Yovel of Tel-Aviv University. "Namely, females bore pups of the males they often scrounged food from."

Their observations revealed that those foraging interactions start many weeks before the mating begins. Over time, the females strengthen those interactions with several males before eventually mating with one of them.

After watching three captive bat colonies over the course of a year, Yovel's team earlier found that either individuals collected food for themselves or they scrounged it from other individuals. This raised an obvious question: why do males allow other individuals and primarily females to literally take food out of their mouths?

There are a variety of potential reasons why animals might be willing to share food. In some cases, food is shared with relatives. In others, the cost of defending food resources just may be too great. But, it's also possible that sharing food sometimes comes with other delayed benefits, including sex.

To explore the food-for-sex hypothesis in the new study, the researchers monitored producer-scrounger interactions of a captive Egyptian fruit bat colony for more than a year. They later determined the paternity of the pups that were born in the colony.

The results were quite clear. Females gave birth to the young of males from which they had scrounged food, lending support for the food-for-sex hypothesis in this species.

There were some other intriguing findings. For instance, the researchers found that there was almost no overlap between males preferred by each female. It suggests that females choose males to scrounge from based on some form of individual preference. Those personal preferences also changed from year to year.

The researchers say that in future studies, they would like to explore how these relationships evolve and change over longer periods of time. They'd also like to find out how these interactions observed in captivity play out in wild populations.
-end-
This work was supported by the European Research Council.

Current Biology, Harten et al.: "Food for sex in bats revealed as producer males reproduce with scrounging females" https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)30495-6

Current Biology (@CurrentBiology), published by Cell Press, is a bimonthly journal that features papers across all areas of biology. Current Biology strives to foster communication across fields of biology, both by publishing important findings of general interest and through highly accessible front matter for non-specialists. Visit: http://www.cell.com/current-biology. To receive Cell Press media alerts, contact press@cell.com.

Cell Press

Related Food Articles from Brightsurf:

Brain region tracking food preferences could steer our food choices
Researchers discovered that a specific brain region monitors food preferences as they change across thirsty and quenched states.

Rates of food insecurity remain high despite expansion of NYC food assistance programs
In the latest COVID-19 tracking survey from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy conducted from September 25 to 27, 34% of the sample of one thousand New York City adults reported that their households had received SNAP benefits since September 1st, 2020.

Food mechanics recipe to serve up healthy food that lasts
Researchers are investigating the science of food drying to design faster, cheaper and better ways to store food.

Economic and food supply chain disruptions endanger global food security
COVID-19 has led to a global economic slowdown that is affecting all four pillars of food security - availability, access, utilization, and stability.

'Building wealth and health network' reduces food insecurity without providing food
As the coronavirus pandemic forces so many to reckon with growing food insecurity and increased health challenges, the Building Wealth and Health Network program of Drexel University's Center for Hunger-Free Communities is reducing food insecurity and improving mental health - without distributing any food or medicine.

Novel DNA analysis will help to identify food origin and counterfeit food in the future
Estonian scientists are developing a DNA-based method of analysis that enables them to identify food components and specify the origin of a foodstuff.

Holders of negative opinions towards GM food likely to be against other novel food tech
Scientists at NTU Singapore and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health have found that people who hold negative opinions of genetically-modified (GM) food are likely to feel the same about nano-enabled food -- food with nano-additives to enhance flavor, nutrition or prolong shelf life.

UMD researchers seek to reduce food waste and establish the science of food date labeling
Minimizing food waste is top of mind right now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Territorial short food supply chains foster food democracy and sustainability
A University of Cordoba study analyzed the governance mechanisms in territorial short food supply chains in Córdoba and Bogotá.

First study on human-grade dog food says whole, fresh food is highly digestible
some pet food companies are developing diets that more closely resemble human food, incorporating human-grade meat and vegetable ingredients that pass USDA quality inspections.

Read More: Food News and Food Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.