Bats use a combination of cues in their hunting sequence — capture, handling and consumption — to decide which prey to attack, catch and consume and which ones they are better off leaving alone or dropping mid-way through the hunt.
"Our study demonstrates that following initial assessment of prey, bats have the ability to use alternate sensory modalities to sequentially reassess prey at close range, and thus compensate for potentially deadly errors," the authors write in the study, published online May 17 in the journal Naturwissenschaften. "Our results bring to light the sequential, complex nature of prey assessment foraging strategies that may allow exploratory and flexible hunting behaviors."
The hunt goes like this: Eavesdropping bats first listen to their prey, then they assess its size, and finally they taste it. The bats' prey must first be of the right size and also edible.
Researchers studied 8 fringe-lipped bats, Trachops cirrhosus, on Barro Colorado Island in Panama. This species of bat feeds on a variety of prey including frogs. They investigated whether the bats update information about their prey to minimize potentially lethal errors.