Reciprocal food sharing in the vampire bat

Gerald S. Wilkinson

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Behavioural reciprocity can be evolutionarily stable1–3. Initial increase in frequency depends, however, on reciprocal altruists interacting predominantly with other reciprocal altruists either by associating within kin groups or by having sufficient memory to recognize and not aid nonreciprocators. Theory thus suggests that reciprocity should evolve more easily among animals which live in kin groups. Data are available separating reciprocity from nepotism only for unrelated nonhuman animals4. Here, I show that food sharing by regurgitation of blood among wild vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) depends equally and independently on degree of relatedness and an index of opportunity for recipro cation. That reciprocity operates within groups containing both kin and nonkin is supported further with data on the availability of blood-sharing occasions, estimates of the economics of shar ing blood, and experiments which show that unrelated bats will reciprocally exchange blood in captivity.