TAU research proves Egyptian fruit bats trade food for sex

Female fruit bats have sex with the male fruit bat that consistently provides them with food.

May 23, 2019 18:22
1 minute read.
An Egyptian fruit bat mother leaving the cave with its pup

An Egyptian fruit bat mother leaving the cave with its pup. (photo credit: SASHA DANILOVICH)


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Female Egyptian fruit bats consistently take food directly from the mouths of male fruit bats in exchange for sex, Tel Aviv University (TAU) research claims.

"Females bore pups of the males they most often scrounged food from," Professor Yossi Yovel said. "Three to four months before mating, the females start scrounging for food from several males. Then they eventually mate with one of the males — the one with which they forged the strongest bond."

Animals have shared food until now because the cost of defending their food resources were possibly too great. Alternatively, they may have been sharing with relatives. The TAU research provides an alternate possibility: sharing food may come with the delayed gratification of sex.

Males shared their food regularly with the female fruit bats, letting them take the food right out of their mouths over an extended period of time. Those females and males formed a sort of bond revolving around this connection. The females eventually mated with one of the food-providing males.

Females were found to have given birth to "the young of males from which they had scrounged food," Yovel said.

Other indications that came up during over a year of the fruit-bat research revealed that there was almost no overlap between males preferred by each female, which suggested that females choose males to scrounge from based on an individual preference of some sort, which changed from year to year.

"We intend to explore how these relationships evolve and change over many years," Yovel concluded. "We would also like to find out how these interactions observed in captivity play out in wild populations."

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