Ringtones and Memories for Frog-Eating Bats

There’s something for almost everyone in this new study about an adventure involving ringtones and frog-eating bats:

Long-Term Memory in Frog-Eating Bats,” M. May Dixon, Patricia L. Jones, Michael J. Ryan, Gerald G. Carter, and Rachel A. Page, bioRxiv, 2022. The authors report:

We captured 49 wild adult T. cirrhosus, individually marked them, and trained them to fly to a novel, artificial sound (one of two ringtones: “trained-A” or “trained-B”). After training, bats spontaneously generalized the association and flew to other ringtones. We then trained the bats to discriminate between their trained ringtone and three other unrewarded ringtones. Before release, these ‘experienced’ bats had retrieved rewards in response to flying to their trained ringtone at least 40 times over 11 to 27 days.

We recaptured eight of the 49 experienced bats (seven males and one female) 356–1531 days after their initial release. We retested them on their trained ringtone under the same conditions as their original training….

Our results demonstrate remarkably long memories in wild frog-eating bats, with individuals remembering a learned foraging association for up to 4.2 years without reinforcement in the wild. This duration is comparable to that reported for corvids and primates.