Proximity sensors on common noctule bats reveal evidence that mothers guide juveniles to roosts but not food
Female bats of temperate zones often communally rear their young, which creates ideal conditions for naive juveniles to find or learn about resources via informed adults. However, studying social information transfer in elusive and small-bodied animals in the wild is difficult with traditional tracking techniques. We used a novel 'next-generation' proximity sensor system (BATS) to investigate if and how juvenile bats use social information in acquiring access to two crucial resources: suitable roosts and food patches. By tracking juvenile - adult associations during roost switching and foraging, we found evidence for mother-to-offspring information transfer while switching roosts but not during foraging. Spatial and temporal patterns of encounters suggested that mothers guided juveniles between the juvenile and the target roost. This roost-switching behaviour provides evidence for maternal guidance in bats, a form of maternal care that has long been assumed, but never documented. We did not find evidence that mothers guide the offspring to foraging sites. Foraging bats reported brief infrequent meetings with other tagged bats that were best explained by local enhancement. Our study illustrates how this recent advance in automated biologging provides researchers with new insights into longstanding questions in behavioural biology.