Fishing Technique of Long-Fingered Bats Was Developed from a Primary Reaction to Disappearing Target Stimuli
Behavioral plasticity is a key feature allowing animals to broaden their dietary niche when novel food resources become available, and long-fingered bats provide an appropriate model system to study the underpinnings of behavioral plasticity, since although generally being an insectivorous species, some individuals have been reported to catch fish. Aiming to get insight into the origin of fishing behavior in long-fingered bats, we studied in the field the differences in sensorial and mechanical reactions to insect-like (stationary) and fish-like (temporary) prey stimuli between well-known piscivorous and strictly insectivorous individuals. Both piscivorous and insectivorous individuals exhibited a qualitatively similar reaction to temporary target stimuli (longer and deeper dips and terminal echolocation phase skewed towards buzz I compared to stationary stimuli). Nevertheless, the quantitative differences observed in the sensorial and mechanical features (the intensity of the shift was significantly greater in piscivorous than in insectivorous individuals) show that piscivorous individuals have honed their capture technique likely enhancing the fishing success. Thus, our results suggest that the fishing technique was developed from a primary reaction shared by all long-fingered bats. All individuals seem to be mechanically and sensorially adapted to detect and capture fish, although under appropriate environmental conditions, they would further improve their technique by experience and/or social learning.