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Flock foraging in nectar feeding bats leptonycteris sanborni advantages to the bats and to the host plants

Flock foraging in nectar feeding bats leptonycteris sanborni advantages to the bats and to the host plants

American Naturalist 114(1): 23-50

Advantages of conspecific associations for pollinating bats and their host plants are discussed. Bats forage in cohesive but structureless flocks which search more efficiently and exploit plant patches more thoroughly than would individuals. Communal feeding allows intermittent communal roosting which affords more efficient digestion. By following lead bats to new plants without individually confirming resource depletion, all bats save energy. There is also saving in echolocation energy since only leading bats use sonar. Caloric allotments to various activities are presented. Leptonycteris uses a disproportionate amount of energy in a short foraging period. Individual foraging energetics depend on flock characteristics. A model is given for maximum flock size determination. Symbiont agaves ensure pollen transfer by steeply declining nocturnal nectar flow. Evolution of the association is discussed, with speculations on grouping advantages for bats and plants prior to mutualistic interactions. Flexibility in the system is a safety factor reducing the destabilizing effect of one-to-one obligate interactions.

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