Biologist Patricia Jones co-author of groundbreaking study on bat memory
Jones, who is also director of the science station at Bowdoin College on the Isle of Kent, says the findings are important because this level of cognitive ability in bats was previously unknown. “Frog-eating bats are an amazing species to work with because they learn very quickly. They hunt frogs by listening to frog calls and they can learn what sounds are associated with prey by hearing other bats feeding, so it was really exciting for us to know that they could remember sounds for so long.
Very few studies are able to examine long-term memory with wild animals, she explains, but the use of artificial sounds – in this case ringtones – allowed researchers to test how long a bat remembered a sound she was sure she hadn’t heard in years.
“Many of the frogs that these bats eat are seasonal breeders, so they only call for part of the year. So we expected the bats to be able to remember sounds between seasons. , but four years is even longer than expected.
Jones says it was a particularly fun collaboration because she originally trained these bats to respond to ringtones as part of her doctoral work at the University of Texas several years ago. “During this period, the lead author of this study, May Dixon, was my field assistant. May then continued her graduate studies and retrieved our bats to test their memories.