Flower Bats (Glossophaga soricina) and Fruit Bats (Carollia perspicillata) Rely on Spatial Cues over Shapes and Scents When Relocating Food
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BACKGROUND: Natural selection can shape specific cognitive abilities and the extent to which a given species relies on various cues when learning associations between stimuli and rewards. Because the flower bat Glossophaga soricina feeds primarily on nectar, and the locations of nectar-producing flowers remain constant, G. soricina might be predisposed to learn to associate food with locations. Indeed, G. soricina has been observed to rely far more heavily on spatial cues than on shape cues when relocating food, and to learn poorly when shape alone provides a reliable cue to the presence of food. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Here we determined whether G. soricina would learn to use scent cues as indicators of the presence of food when such cues were also available. Nectar-producing plants fed upon by G. soricina often produce distinct, intense odors. We therefore expected G. soricina to relocate food sources using scent cues, particularly the flower-produced compound, dimethyl disulfide, which is attractive even to G. soricina with no previous experience of it. We also compared the learning of associations between cues and food sources by G. soricina with that of a related fruit-eating bat, Carollia perspicillata. We found that (1) G. soricina did not learn to associate scent cues, including dimethyl disulfide, with feeding sites when the previously rewarded spatial cues were also available, and (2) both the fruit-eating C. perspicillata and the flower-feeding G. soricina were significantly more reliant on spatial cues than associated sensory cues for relocating food. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: These findings, taken together with past results, provide evidence of a powerful, experience-independent predilection of both species to rely on spatial cues when attempting to relocate food.