Mammals use chemical signals for individual and kin recognition, to establish social hierarchies, mark territories and choose mates. The nocturnal and social lifestyle of bats suggests that, besides acoustic signals, they also use scent to communicate. We investigated in the communally breeding Bechstein’s bat, Myotis bechsteinii, whether secretions of the facial interaural gland contain information that can be used for individual and colony recognition. Since female Bechstein’s bats live in closed societies and show cooperative behaviour, we predicted they would recognize colony members. We analysed interaural gland secretions, which we repeatedly sampled from 85 females belonging to four free-ranging colonies. Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry profiles were individually specific and differed between colonies.
Comparing odour profiles between colonies we found a relation between chemical similarity and the mitochondrial haplotype of colony members. Within colonies there was no correlation between mass spectrometer profile similarity and genetic relatedness. Our results suggest that female Bechstein’s bats may use interaural gland secretions for individual and colony recognition but not to infer kinship directly.