Echolocating bats cry out loud to detect their prey

Annemarie Surlykke, Elisabeth K V Kalko

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Echolocating bats have successfully exploited a broad range of habitats and prey. Much research has demonstrated how time-frequency structure of echolocation calls of different species is adapted to acoustic constraints of habitats and foraging behaviors. However, the intensity of bat calls has been largely neglected although intensity is a key factor determining echolocation range and interactions with other bats and prey. Differences in detection range, in turn, are thought to constitute a mechanism promoting resource partitioning among bats, which might be particularly important for the species-rich bat assemblages in the tropics. Here we present data on emitted intensities for 11 species from 5 families of insectivorous bats from Panamá hunting in open or background cluttered space or over water. We recorded all bats in their natural habitat in the field using a multi-microphone array coupled with photographic methods to assess the bats' position in space to estimate emitted call intensities. All species emitted intense search signals. Output intensity was reduced when closing in on background by 4-7 dB per halving of distance. Source levels of open space and edge space foragers (Emballonuridae, Mormoopidae, Molossidae, and Vespertilionidae) ranged between 122-134 dB SPL. The two Noctilionidae species hunting over water emitted the loudest signals recorded so far for any bat with average source levels of ca. 137 dB SPL and maximum levels above 140 dB SPL. In spite of this ten-fold variation in emitted intensity, estimates indicated, surprisingly, that detection distances for prey varied far less; bats emitting the highest intensities also emitted the highest frequencies, which are severely attenuated in air. Thus, our results suggest that bats within a local assemblage compensate for frequency dependent attenuation by adjusting the emitted intensity to achieve comparable detection distances for prey across species. We conclude that for bats with similar hunting habits, prey detection range represents a unifying constraint on the emitted intensity largely independent of call shape, body size, and close phylogenetic relationships.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume3
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)e2036
ISSN1932-6203
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1. Jan 2008

Fingerprint

Chiroptera
Tropics
Water
Microphones
Acoustics
Air
Echolocation
Ecosystem
habitats
Molossidae
Vespertilionidae
Habits
acoustics
tropics
body size
water
foraging
air
phylogeny

Keywords

  • Animals
  • Chiroptera
  • Crying
  • Echolocation
  • Predatory Behavior
  • Tape Recording

Cite this

Surlykke, Annemarie ; Kalko, Elisabeth K V. / Echolocating bats cry out loud to detect their prey. In: PLoS ONE. 2008 ; Vol. 3, No. 4. pp. e2036.
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Echolocating bats cry out loud to detect their prey. / Surlykke, Annemarie; Kalko, Elisabeth K V.

In: PLoS ONE, Vol. 3, No. 4, 01.01.2008, p. e2036.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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N2 - Echolocating bats have successfully exploited a broad range of habitats and prey. Much research has demonstrated how time-frequency structure of echolocation calls of different species is adapted to acoustic constraints of habitats and foraging behaviors. However, the intensity of bat calls has been largely neglected although intensity is a key factor determining echolocation range and interactions with other bats and prey. Differences in detection range, in turn, are thought to constitute a mechanism promoting resource partitioning among bats, which might be particularly important for the species-rich bat assemblages in the tropics. Here we present data on emitted intensities for 11 species from 5 families of insectivorous bats from Panamá hunting in open or background cluttered space or over water. We recorded all bats in their natural habitat in the field using a multi-microphone array coupled with photographic methods to assess the bats' position in space to estimate emitted call intensities. All species emitted intense search signals. Output intensity was reduced when closing in on background by 4-7 dB per halving of distance. Source levels of open space and edge space foragers (Emballonuridae, Mormoopidae, Molossidae, and Vespertilionidae) ranged between 122-134 dB SPL. The two Noctilionidae species hunting over water emitted the loudest signals recorded so far for any bat with average source levels of ca. 137 dB SPL and maximum levels above 140 dB SPL. In spite of this ten-fold variation in emitted intensity, estimates indicated, surprisingly, that detection distances for prey varied far less; bats emitting the highest intensities also emitted the highest frequencies, which are severely attenuated in air. Thus, our results suggest that bats within a local assemblage compensate for frequency dependent attenuation by adjusting the emitted intensity to achieve comparable detection distances for prey across species. We conclude that for bats with similar hunting habits, prey detection range represents a unifying constraint on the emitted intensity largely independent of call shape, body size, and close phylogenetic relationships.

AB - Echolocating bats have successfully exploited a broad range of habitats and prey. Much research has demonstrated how time-frequency structure of echolocation calls of different species is adapted to acoustic constraints of habitats and foraging behaviors. However, the intensity of bat calls has been largely neglected although intensity is a key factor determining echolocation range and interactions with other bats and prey. Differences in detection range, in turn, are thought to constitute a mechanism promoting resource partitioning among bats, which might be particularly important for the species-rich bat assemblages in the tropics. Here we present data on emitted intensities for 11 species from 5 families of insectivorous bats from Panamá hunting in open or background cluttered space or over water. We recorded all bats in their natural habitat in the field using a multi-microphone array coupled with photographic methods to assess the bats' position in space to estimate emitted call intensities. All species emitted intense search signals. Output intensity was reduced when closing in on background by 4-7 dB per halving of distance. Source levels of open space and edge space foragers (Emballonuridae, Mormoopidae, Molossidae, and Vespertilionidae) ranged between 122-134 dB SPL. The two Noctilionidae species hunting over water emitted the loudest signals recorded so far for any bat with average source levels of ca. 137 dB SPL and maximum levels above 140 dB SPL. In spite of this ten-fold variation in emitted intensity, estimates indicated, surprisingly, that detection distances for prey varied far less; bats emitting the highest intensities also emitted the highest frequencies, which are severely attenuated in air. Thus, our results suggest that bats within a local assemblage compensate for frequency dependent attenuation by adjusting the emitted intensity to achieve comparable detection distances for prey across species. We conclude that for bats with similar hunting habits, prey detection range represents a unifying constraint on the emitted intensity largely independent of call shape, body size, and close phylogenetic relationships.

KW - Animals

KW - Chiroptera

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KW - Predatory Behavior

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