Learning and memory in bats: A case study on object discrimination in flower-visiting bats

Georgina Ross, Marc W. Holderied*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

2 Citations (Scopus)


Bats are an exceptionally successful mammalian order, with a wide range of physiological, morphological and behavioural adaptations to the niche of an actively flying nocturnal vertebrate. Many aspects of their life histories suggest bats also possess remarkable learning and memory abilities, which renders them particularly interesting subjects for cognitive research. Yet compared to some other mammalian orders, relatively little is known about their cognitive abilities. Here we will review current knowledge on how bats use spatial learning to navigate during migration and foraging, how they use vocal learning for individual and group recognition, and how they employ social learning to glean information from others. Finally, discrimination learning (learning to use stimulus differences for classification) is explored for nectar-feeding bats. These bat species pollinate plants that have evolved a suite of floral traits associated with bat pollination (chiropterophily), including echoacoustic signatures. We present and discuss an experiment on the individual-and sex-specific cognitive abilities of captive Glossophaga soricina comparing their speed of discrimination learning, long-term retention of discrimination ability and relearning flexibility. The aim of this chapter is to provide glimpses into the cognitive abilities of these fascinating mammals to explore how their learning and memory abilities may have contributed to their success.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBat Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation
PublisherLiviana/Springer, New York
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781461473978
ISBN (Print)1461473969, 9781461473961
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013


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