The Bats of Panama


Meet some of the bats of Panama; I’m working specifically with Trachops cirrhosus, Lophostoma silvicolum, and Tonatia saurophila. Essentially I’m interested in figuring out who can learn to find new kinds of food from each other. This tells us how well individuals can respond to changes in their environment. It can also help us understand why similar species have very different diets. To do this, we train bats to fetch. The first step is to train a bat to fly to a speaker to get a food reward using a playback of a sound they are familiar with, like the song of male katydids or male túngara frogs. In the wild, these bats use these songs to hunt. We then train one bat to go to a speaker playing a completely novel sound that we’ve made up. This bat then becomes a demonstrator (some call them “teachers” but I prefer NOT to use this term as it implies that the bat is helping the other bat on purpose, which may not be the case) for naïve bats who have never been exposed to this sound before. We then watch to see how quickly our naïve bats can learn to go to the speaker just by observing the demonstrator.   Turns out they learn pretty quickly!! You can read all about it in our paper in Science Advances.

Here are some pictures of some of the trained models I have worked with! (scroll over to see species names etc, or click on each image to enlarge)



And just to make everyone jealous,  here are just some of the bats I’ve been so lucky to meet while working in the neotropics!!