ABSTRACT

Long-term social aggregations are maintained by multiple mechanisms, including the use of acoustic signals, which may nonetheless entail significant energetic costs. To date, however, no studies have gauged whether there are significant energetic costs to social call production in bats, which heavily rely on acoustic communication for a diversity of social tasks. We measured energetic expenditure during acoustic signaling in Spix's disc-winged bats (Thyroptera tricolor), a species that commonly uses contact calls to locate the ephemeral furled leaves that they use for roosting. To determine the cost of sound production, we measured oxygen consumption using intermittent-flow respirometry methods, with and without social signaling. Our results show that the emission of contact calls significantly increases oxygen consumption; vocal individuals spent, on average, 12.42 kJ more during social signaling trials than they spent during silent trials. We also found that as resting metabolic rate increased in males, there was a decreasing probability that they would emit response calls. These results provide support to the ‘allocation model’, which predicts that only individuals with lower self-maintenance costs can afford to spend energy in additional activities. Our results provide a step forward in our understanding of how physiology modulates behavior, specifically how the costs of call production and resting metabolic rate may explain the differences in vocal behavior among individuals.

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