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Social grooming among Indian short-nosed fruit bats

In: Behaviour
Authors:
A. Rathinakumar aDepartment of Animal Behaviour & Physiology, School of Biological Sciences, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, 625021, India

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Mauricio Cantor bDepartment of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada B3H 4J1

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K. Senthilkumar aDepartment of Animal Behaviour & Physiology, School of Biological Sciences, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, 625021, India

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P. Vimal aDepartment of Animal Behaviour & Physiology, School of Biological Sciences, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, 625021, India

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P. Kaliraj aDepartment of Animal Behaviour & Physiology, School of Biological Sciences, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, 625021, India

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G. Marimuthu aDepartment of Animal Behaviour & Physiology, School of Biological Sciences, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, 625021, India

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Social grooming is conspicuous in group-living mammals. Bats are gregarious and may groom each other, but the motivation for such social behaviour remains unclear. Here, we describe patterns and infer function of social grooming in tent-making Indian short-nosed fruit bats. Combining field and captivity observations, we found that males and their harem of females mutually groom and apply bodily secretions to one another in tight clusters. Mutual grooming is more commonly initiated by females, before emergence flight at dusk, and during the non-mating season. The within-harem association pattern suggests males may recognize female reproductive status via social grooming. Chemical analysis of the secretions applied during grooming revealed volatile organic compounds that may be involved in chemosensory-mediated communication and/or mate choice. These fruit bat harems were previously seen as simple aggregations, with limited interactions among individuals. Our findings suggest social grooming is multi-functional, with potential implications for the bats’ social lives.

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