Female Egyptian fruit bats trade sex for food, a new study by Tel Aviv University has found.
Scientists had previously watched bats sharing food, often with female bats taking taking morsels of food straight out of the mouths of males.
Now, scientists at the university suggest females tend to reward male peers for their food offerings with sex and offspring.
After observing three colonies for over a year, the team led by Yosef Prat performed paternity tests to tests their “food-for-sex” hypothesis.
The findings were revealed in an article published today in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Current Biology.
“We found that females carry the young of males from which they used to scrounge food, supporting the food-for-sex hypothesis in this species,” the authors write.
“Scrounging food from a successful male forager diminishes the costs of
foraging and is compensated, if consistent over time, by rewarding the male with mating opportunities,” they add.
But scientists also found that female bats typically scrounge from preferred male bats, which changed from year to year, rather than a set of alpha males prevailing.
In the future, the team hopes to explore how interactions between females and males evolve over time and in wild populations.