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Bats That Hang Together

Vampire bats that socialize together have more similar gut microbiomes, according to Discover magazine.

Researchers from Ohio State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign examined the social microbiome of vampire bats, Desmodus rotundus, by sequencing fecal samples of wild bats from different colonies, bats from different zoos, and a group of bats they experimentally brought to live with one another. As Discover notes, vampire bats that live together may take part in social grooming rituals and may even share regurgitated food.

The team reports in Biology Letters that bats with stronger social bonds had more similar gut microbiomes, even among the bats experimentally introduced to one another.

"We saw that the microbiomes of bats that regularly engaged with one another socially became more similar to one another," first author Karthik Yarlagadda from Illinois says in a statement. "When bats interacted less — even if they came from the same population initially — their microbiomes were less similar by the end of the four months."