These 'Masked Seducer' Bats Show Off Their Wrinkly Faces to Attract Mates, Researchers Find
A recent study explored the courtship of the elusive and understudied wrinkle-faced bats
This species of bat says to keep your anti-wrinkle cream!
According to a new study titled "The Masked Seducers: Lek Courtship Behavior in the Wrinkle-Faced Bat," which was published in PLOS One on Wednesday, researchers believe the male wrinkle-faced bat, aka Centurio senex, uses its distinct facial expression to attract females.
The scientists found that the males tended to perch themselves near females, making audible noises to catch the attention of potential mates, as well as occasionally raising and lowering their "skin mask" by using their thumbs.
More research is needed, however, as these elusive wrinkle-faced bats tend to be too rare to properly study. In this case study, the team observed the bats' behavior in one location over 13 nights, careful not to interfere or disturb them in action.
The researchers explained that they are unsure whether the wrinkly skin flaps on the male animals' faces visibly stand out to females, or if the flaps play a part in releasing attractive scents through the bats' chin areas, or even if they affect noises they make to court mates.
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"... vocalizations appear to be emitted while the skin mask totally covers the mouth, which could result in a slightly reduced emission volume and a modified frequency spectrum," reads the study. "However, nostrils are mostly uncovered by the raised mask, suggesting at least a partially nasal emission of the observed social vocalizations. Perhaps the unique facial wrinkles which are in males more pronounced than in females, might assist in directing the sonar beam of these calls."
Sharlene Santana, a bat biologist who wasn't part of this research, explained to The New York Times that it's "hard to know without more data on what the females might be choosing." Santana also compared the unique bat species' odd appearance to a "very wrinkly old man with very big eyes, wearing a turtleneck."
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In the study, the researchers wrote that the male bats "used stable perches and showed distinct behavioral patterns," which included "acoustic signaling." The males also "spent several hours on the perch without leaving and abandoned it only after midnight."
"While we were extremely lucky to obtain the first observations on the behavior of this interesting species we deliberately refrained from mist-netting bats in order not to scare the animals away from our study site," the study reads in its conclusion. "The downside of this cautious approach is, however, that we still lack essential data, such as the sex ratio at the site, the body condition of individual males or the identity of all visitors."