My broad research interests are animal communication, social behavior,
and behavioral ecology. I am currently using studies of bats to
investigate questions about information transfer, social learning, and
vocal communication. Long-lived, group-living animals experiencing
changing resources could benefit by acquiring information from
conspecifics. Most bat species are highly social, and many rely on
seasonally changing food sources. Additionally, communicative
vocalizations have been described for many bat species, but function
context are known for relatively few calls. Through research with
bat species, I am working to address unanswered questions about the
nature of social learning and communication in bats. My research
evaluates: 1) the ability of juvenile bats to learn a new foraging
socially, 2) the function of social calls in a foraging context, 3)
rate at which and mechanism (social or individual learning) by which
skills are acquired by bats, and 4) the effects of social context and
occurrence of interindividual associations in foraging bats.
Inexperienced juveniles should especially benefit from social
and results from my research indicate that for young big brown bats
(Eptesicus fuscus), there is a social component to learning to capture
prey. I found that young bats can learn a novel foraging task via
interaction with knowledgeable (but not unknowledgeable) conspecifics.
It appears that inexperienced bats may be using auditory cues from
knowledgeable bats to learn about prey items; further data analysis is
pending. During these interactions, I recorded a variety of
vocalizations that appear to be communicative in function. Using
high-speed video footage recorded synchronously with the audio
am matching bats’ behavior and interactions with their vocalizations
to determine possible functions of these calls.
In contrast to the insectivorous bats described above, research I
conducted with wild-caught Jamaican fruit bats (Artibeus jamaicensis)
revealed that having conspecifics present when foraging can negatively
impact an individual’s foraging efforts. I found that bats took
longer to find food in groups than alone and spent significantly
trying to obtain inaccessible food if another bat was nearby.
experiments I am conducting with a captive colony of short-tailed
bats (Carollia perspicillata) indicate that individuals of this
locate and access food more quickly when in groups than alone, and
males feed close in time with one another more often than expected by
chance. To ascertain whether social learning or other factors (e.g.,
increased competition) are responsible for faster foraging in
am training demonstrator bats to specific food locations and will then
record times to feed for naive bats flying with these
am also evaluating instances of pairs of bats feed close together in
- Wright, Genevieve Spanjer. 2009. Hipposideros caffer.
Mammalian Species 845: 1-9
- Spanjer, Genevieve R., and Martin Cipollini. 2006.
Relationship between physiochemical factors and distribution of
stygobitic crayfishes in southeastern US caves. Southeastern
- Spanjer, Genevieve R., and M. Brock Fenton. 2005. Behavior
Responses of Bats to Gates at Caves and Mines. Wildlife Society
Bulletin 33 (3): 1101-1112.
- Ratcliffe, John M., Hannah M. ter Hofstede, Rafa Avila-Flores,
M. Brock Fenton, Gary F. McCracken, Stefania Biscardi, Jennifer
Erin Gillam, Jazmine Orprecio, and Genevieve Spanjer. 2004.
Conspecifics influence call design in the Brazilian free-tailed bat,
Canadian Journal of Zoology 82(6): 966-971.
- Spanjer, Genevieve R. 2004. How do bats react to cave gates?
National Speleological Society (NSS) News 62(10): 285.