Stealth echolocation in aerial hawking bats reflects a substrate gleaning ancestry

Daniel Lewanzik*, John M Ratcliffe, Erik A Etzler, Holger R Goerlitz, Lasse Jakobsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Predator-prey co-evolution can escalate into an evolutionary arms race.1 Examples of insect countermeasures to bat echolocation are well-known,2 but presumptive direct counter strategies in bats to insect anti-bat tactics are rare. The emission of very low-intensity calls by the hawking Barbastella barbastellus to circumvent high-frequency moth hearing is the most convincing countermeasure known.2,3 However, we demonstrate that stealth echolocation did not evolve through a high-intensity aerial hawking ancestor becoming quiet as previously hypothesized2,3,4 but from a gleaning ancestor transitioning into an obligate aerial hawker. Our ancestral state reconstructions show that the Plecotini ancestor likely gleaned prey using low-intensity calls typical of gleaning bats and that this ability-and associated traits-was subsequently lost in the barbastelle lineage. Barbastelles did not, however, revert to the oral, high-intensity call emission that other hawking bats use but retained the low-intensity nasal emission of closely related gleaning plecotines despite an extremely limited echolocation range. We further show that barbastelles continue to emit low-intensity calls even under adverse noise conditions and do not broaden the echolocation beam during the terminal buzz, unlike other vespertilionids attacking airborne prey.5,6 Together, our results suggest that barbastelles' echolocation is subject to morphological constraints prohibiting higher call amplitudes and beam broadening in the terminal buzz. We suggest that an abundance of eared prey allowed the co-opting and maintenance of low-intensity, nasal echolocation in today's obligate hawking barbastelle and that this unique foraging behavior7 persists because barbastelles remain a rare, acoustically inconspicuous predator to eared moths. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Biology
Volume33
Issue number23
Pages (from-to)5208-5214.e3
ISSN0960-9822
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4. Dec 2023

Keywords

  • Animals
  • Echolocation
  • Chiroptera
  • Predatory Behavior
  • Hearing
  • Moths
  • Barbastelle bat
  • stealth echolocation
  • Plecotini
  • arms-race
  • co-evolution

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