Knowledge of interspecies information transfer in mammals is scarce compared with other taxa. We investigated whether eavesdropping on echolocation calls of bats may be used by sympatric bats with similar feeding ecology. We performed playback experiments with three free-ranging neotropical bat species, broadcasting search phase calls or feeding buzzes of conspecifics and heterospecifics belonging either to the same or to another bat family. Both the greater fishing bat Noctilio leporinus and the lesser bulldog bat Noctilio albiventris (Noctilionidae) reacted with repeated approaches in response to playbacks of search phase calls and feeding buzzes from conspecifics and also to congeneric feeding buzzes. Noctilio leporinus also were attracted by search phase calls from its sister species N. albiventris. In contrast, the sac-winged bat Saccopteryx bilineata (Emballonuridae) did not react to any playback sequences presented. Our results support the existence of eavesdropping behaviour for both species of Noctilio. We suggest that information transfer via eavesdropping may depend mainly on species-specific traits, including foraging style and social behaviour (territoriality, group foraging), and on distribution and density of prey. Call design had only a minor influence on the reaction.
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