Do vampire bats groom others based on need?


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Publication Date

September 2019


Allogrooming provides a window into the social lives of many group-living mammals and birds. The fitness benefits of allogrooming are encouraged by proximate mechanisms that make it physiologically rewarding for both actors and receivers. However, receivers might not always benefit from allogrooming. Some allogrooming decisions might be the actor’s response to cues of the recipient’s need. Other decisions might only be caused by the actor’s motivational state. To test these ideas, we studied what triggers allogrooming in common vampire bats. In test 1, subjects that had experimentally disturbed and wetted fur were more likely to be allogroomed, even when controlling for increased self-grooming. In test 2, allogrooming rates were elevated not only by receiver self-grooming (a cue for receiver need) but also by the actor’s previous self-grooming. Both effects were significantly greater than the effect of self-grooming by third parties. Interestingly, we detected a negative interaction: the positive effect of receiver need on allogrooming was smaller when the actor was previously self-grooming. This is consistent with the hypothesis that there are “receiver-driven” allogrooming decisions, which are responses to recipient need, and “actor-driven” decisions, which are not. We predict that receiver-driven allogrooming will bestow greater benefits to recipients compared with actor-driven allogrooming.


Allogrooming, Vampire Bats, Self-Grooming

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Behavioral Ecology, Vol. 31, no. 1 (2019-09-27).