Comparison of Problem-Solving Skills and Cognitive Function Between Three Bat Species to Evaluate the Potential of Bat Behavior As a Parameter in Bat Phylogeny
Davis, Zoe D.
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The discovery and unraveling of the evolutionary history of mega and microbats alike has stumped and surprised scientists for multiple decades. In recent years, much more light has been shed on the phylogeny of the order Chiroptera, though morphological and molecular studies continue to produce somewhat contradictory results. One exciting evolutionary phenomena discovered in recent years is the independent, convergent evolution of echolocation in several species of bat, including the megabat genus Rousettus. However, most evolutionary bat studies strictly use morphological and molecular data to decipher bat evolutionary history. In this study, I attempted to observe behavioral and cognitive functions between three species, Pteropus vampyrus (large flying fox), Pteropus hypomelanus (variable flying fox), and Eptesicus fuscus (big brown bat), in order to evaluate bat behavior as a potential future method in uncovering bat phylogenies. To observe such functions, I devised a total of three specialized puzzles for each species to solve. While the extreme morphological differences between Eptesicus and Pteropus prevented direct comparison of cognition, as each needed a different type of puzzle, it was revealed that three of the four fuscus bats were able to complete all trials of all puzzles, and they all experienced a decrease in completion time between the first and second trials of the more complex puzzle. However, the P. hypomelanus trials displayed very little base interaction with the puzzles, and the P. vampyrus trials displayed no interaction with any of the puzzles. Future extension of this study, in which the species are given more time to display interest, may shed more light on the behavioral differences in various species of mega and microbats and the potential of using behavior as a parameter in bat phylogeny studies.