The greater short-nosed fruit bat Cynopterus sphinx relies on the diverse food resources available in its habitat, with individuals identifying and discriminating between food sources using their sense of smell, in relation to volatile compounds released from fruit, flowers and leaves. The work detailed in this article tested whether pups learn about novel food from interactions with their mothers during foraging and develop preferences. Mother-pup pairs or pups alone were trained during postnatal days (PND) 46–50 using Mangifera indica as a novel fruit. They were then tested during PND 61–65 for food preferences in relation to a known fruit (Achras sapota) and the novel fruit (M. indica). When the trained pups and untrained pups were tested for food preferences independently, those trained with the mother were found to exhibit significantly more marked preferences for the novel fruit as compared with either the pups trained without their mothers or the untrained pups. They made a greater number of feeding attempts and bouts in respect of the novel fruit. However, pups trained without their mothers and untrained pups also both showed a response to the novel fruit during the later period of testing. The results suggest that mother-pup interactions during the early foraging period may provide an opportunity for C. sphinx pups to learn about novel food sources thanks to their mother. Later they may learn independently on the basis of experience from mother's milk and/or social interaction with conspecifics.
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Vol. 18 • No. 1