Detection distances in desert dwelling, high duty cycle echolocators: A test of the foraging habitat hypothesis

Nikita M Finger, Marc Holderied, David S Jacobs*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

High Duty Cycle (HDC) echolocating bats use high frequency echolocation pulses that are clutter resistant, but their high frequencies give them limited range. Despite their unique ability to reject background clutter while simultaneously detecting fluttering prey, the frequency of their echolocation pulses has a strong correlation with level of environmental clutter, lower frequency pulses of HDC bats being associated with more open environments. The Foraging Habitat Hypothesis (FHH) proposes that the ecological significance of these lower frequency pulses in HDC bats in open environments is that they allow longer prey detection distances. To test the FHH, we compared the frequencies, Source Levels (SLs) and detection distances of Rhinolophus capensis, a HDC bat that has been shown to vary its call frequency in relation to habitat structure. As a further test of the FHH we investigated the SLs and detection distances of Rhinolophus damarensis (a heterospecific species that occurs in the same open desert environment as R. capensis but echolocates at a higher dominant pulse frequency). In the open desert, R. capensis emitted both lower frequency and higher SL pulses giving them longer detection distances than R. capensis in the cluttered fynbos. SL contributed more to differences in detection distances in both R. capensis and R. damarensis than frequency. In a few instances, R. damarensis achieved similar detection distances to desert-inhabiting R. capensis by emitting much higher SLs despite their average SLs being lower. These results suggest that lower frequency echolocation pulses are not a prerequisite for open desert living but may increase detection distance while avoiding energetic costs required for high SLs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0268138
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume17
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
DSJ: National Research Foundation (NRF), GUN 64798 https://www.nrf.ac.za/ NO - The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Finger et al.

Keywords

  • Animals
  • Chiroptera
  • Echolocation
  • Ecosystem

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