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R Soc Open Sci. 2018 Jun 27;5(6):172483. doi: 10.1098/rsos.172483. eCollection 2018 Jun.

A method for rapid testing of social learning in vampire bats.

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Department of Biology, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.
Department of Collective Behaviour, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell, Germany.
Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany.
Department of Biology, University of Toronto Mississauga, Mississauga, Canada.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado 0843-03092, Balboa, Ancón, Republic of Panama.


Designing experiments on social learning using an untested behaviour or species requires baseline knowledge of how the animals will perform. We conducted a pilot study of a procedure for rapidly testing social learning in the highly social common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) using a simple maze. To create demonstrators, we allowed captive bats to learn to exit a three-dimensional maze, which reunited them with their colony as a reward. We then filmed naive bats in the same maze, comparing their ability to exit the maze before, during and after the addition of a trained demonstrator. The presence of a demonstrator increased the exit rates of naive bats, presumably by attracting the attention of the naive bats to the maze exit. Four of the five naive bats that exited in the presence of a demonstrator retained the ability to exit without the demonstrator. No naive bat exited during trials without a potential demonstrator present. This experimental procedure appears to be a promising approach for efficient tests of social learning in vampire bats because maze difficulty can be manipulated to adjust learning rates and each trial requires only 15 min.


maze; social learning; spatial memory; vampire bats

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