Self-assessment strategy during contest decisions between male Great Himalayan leaf-nosed bats

  • Congnan Sun
  • Chunmian Zhang
  • Hao Gu
  • Tinglei JiangEmail author
  • Jiang FengEmail author
Original Article


Agonistic interactions in animals are often settled based on the rules of an assessment strategy. We tested the predictions of evolutionary game theory models (including two models based on self-assessment: (a) the energetic war of attrition model, (b) the cumulative assessment model, and a third model (c) based on mutual assessment model) during contests between males of the Great Himalayan leaf-nosed bat Hipposideros armiger. We also studied the potential proxies of resource holding potential (RHP: body mass and forearm length) and their relationship to contest duration and the level of escalation. Overall, heavier males won more contests than lighter males, and they had an advantage in physical fights. In physical contests, the contest duration was positively correlated with the body mass of the loser but not the body mass of the winner. These results supported the prediction that males make decisions based on their own RHP (self-assessment: the energetic war of attrition model) rather than on RHP of their opponent (mutual assessment). Contest duration was not related to the forearm length of the winner or the loser. No relationship between body size (i.e., body mass and forearm length) and contest duration was observed for non-physical contests. This did not support any of the predictions applying to the energetic war of attrition model, the cumulative assessment model, and the mutual assessment model, indicating that no assessment occurred during non-physical contests. This study provides the first empirical evidence that bats make decisions based on their own RHP during agonistic interactions.

Significance statement

This study provides empirical evidence supporting the hypothesis that during physical contests bats make decisions based on estimates of their own ability (self-assessment) rather than on a process of mutual assessment. This finding will facilitate comparative studies of fighting strategy across bat species.


Agonistic behavior Agonistic interaction Hipposideros armiger Mutual assessment Self-assessment 



This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 31872680 and 31670390).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical approval

Bats were captured by mist nets. Then, they were placed individually in cloth bags and transported to housing in temporary field experimental stations near the bat roosts. No bat suffered any obvious effects from the process of capture, transport, and experiment. No visible physical injuries were observed, although some contests involved physical contact. We removed the aluminum alloy bands before the bats were release. All of the captured bats were released in good health at their original site of capture after the completion of the experiment. Experimental procedures were in compliance with the National Natural Science Foundation of China for experiments involving vertebrate animals and were approved by Northeast Animal Research Authority in Northeast Normal University, China (approval number: NENU-W-2017-101).

Data availability

The datasets analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author upon request.

Supplementary material

265_2019_2657_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.2 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1.23 MB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jilin Provincial Key Laboratory of Animal Resource Conservation and UtilizationNortheast Normal UniversityChangchunChina
  2. 2.College of Animal Science and TechnologyJilin Agricultural UniversityChangchunChina

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