Situational and Age-Dependent Decision Making during Life Threatening Distress in Myotis macrodactylus


Echolocation and audiovocal communication have been studied extensively in bats. The manner in which these abilities are incorporated within escape behaviors during life-threatening distress is largely unknown. Here we tested the hypothesis that behavioral response profiles expressed during distress are relatively stereotypic given their evolutionary adaptations to avoid predators. We subjected juvenile and adult big-footed myotis (Myotis macrodactylus) to a sequence of three types of life threatening distress: 1) trapping them in a mist-net (environmental threat), 2) approaching them when trapped (predator threat), and 3) partially restraining their freedom to move (arrest), and recorded their escape behavior in each of the three conditions. Response profiles differed across individuals and with the context in which they were expressed. During environmental and predator threat, bats displayed significantly more biting and wing-flapping behaviors and emitted more echolocation pulses than during arrest. Response profiles also varied with age. During arrest, juveniles were more likely than adults to emit distress calls and vice-versa for biting and wing flapping during environmental and predator threat. Overall, individualized response profiles were classified into ten clusters that were aligned along two divergent response trajectories when viewed within two-dimensional, multifactorial decision space. Juvenile behaviors tended to follow a predominantly "social-dependence" trajectory, whereas adult behaviors were mostly aligned along a "self-reliance" trajectory. We conclude that bats modify their vocal behavior and make age-appropriate and contextually adaptive decisions when distressed. This decision-making ability is consistent with observations in other social species, including humans.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0132817

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@inproceedings{Huang2015SituationalAA, title={Situational and Age-Dependent Decision Making during Life Threatening Distress in Myotis macrodactylus}, author={Xiaobin Huang and Jagmeet S. Kanwal and Tinglei Jiang and Zhenyu Long and Bo Luo and Xinke Yue and Yongbo Gu and Jiang Feng and S. C. Pratt}, booktitle={PloS one}, year={2015} }