"Namely, females bore pups of the males they often scrounged food from." At first, the team says they were confused by the bats’ behavior: Why would a male willingly give up his food?To answer, they observed three colonies over the course of a year and noticed that females would eat from the mouths of males for weeks at a time as a sort of bat dinner date.Mostly though, the males were probably just trying to get sex.“We hypothesize that the observed relation between food scrounging and mating is a form of mutualism exhibited in delayed reciprocity: 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,” wrote the authors, citing support for a food-for-sex hypothesis.That begged the question: Why do males allow other individuals and primarily females to literally take food out of their mouths? Yovel's observations revealed that those foraging interactions start many weeks before mating begins.Over time, the females intensify interactions with specific males before eventually mating with one of them.This was our hypothesis, and, indeed, we found that this is the case." There are a variety of potential reasons why animals might be willing to share food. In others, the cost of defending food resources may be too great.But it's also possible that sharing food sometimes comes with other delayed benefits, including sex. Yovel's team earlier found after watching three captive bat colonies over the course of a year that individuals either collected food for themselves or scrounged it from other individuals.
"Originally, we wondered: Why do the producers of food allow scroungers to take food from their mouths? But we found that most of the scroungers are female, and so we considered the possibility that females trade mating for food.
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To explore the food-for-sex hypothesis in the new study, the researchers monitored producer-scrounger interactions of a captive Egyptian fruit bat colony for more than a year.
They later determined the paternity of the pups that were born in the colony based on genetics. Females gave birth to the young of males from which they had scrounged food," explains Prof. "The findings lend support for the food-for-sex hypothesis in this species." There were some other intriguing findings.