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Temporal and Spatial Distribution of Male Scent Marks in the Polygynous Greater Sac-Winged Bat


Barbara A. Caspers, Department of Behavioural Biology, University of Bielefeld, Morgenbreede 45, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany. E-mail:


Scent marks are relatively long-lived signals that can be perceived by conspecifics when the producer is absent. Therefore, it is often not obvious to whom the signal is directed. In daytime roosts of the polygynous greater sac-winged bat, males scent mark territories with facial gland secretions. Territories are a valuable resource for males, as they offer exclusive courtship opportunities, which results in increased male reproductive success and, consequently, increased male–male competition over territories. The information encoded in male scent marks could, therefore, be either directed at females as part of an olfactory courtship display or at male competitors as part of territorial behaviour. We expected territorial males to scent mark in the morning, shortly before females return to the territory and close to female roosting sites, if scent marks are directed at females as part of the courtship display. And we expected harem males to scent mark at the territory boundaries, where male–male encounters are most likely to occur, if scent marks are directed at male competitors. We found that males marked more frequently in the afternoon, at a time when all females have already left the territory, and harem males marked at the territory boundaries and not inside their territory in the area where females roost. At boundaries males fan volatiles from specialised wing sacs towards competitors outside the territory. Scent marking of male Saccopteryx bilineata might therefore be congruent with the assessment-hypothesis, which states that scent marks offer intruders the possibility to make an olfactory assessment of the territory owner without direct physical interaction. Thus, scent marks of male S. bilineata are most likely influenced by male–male competition and not by female choice.