Understanding signal design during the pursuit of aerial insects by echolocating bats: tools and applications

MW Holderied, C.J. Baker, M. Vespe, G Jones

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

19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Bats are among the few predators that can exploit the large quantities of aerial insects active at night. They do this by using echolocation to detect, localize, and classify targets in the dark. Echolocation calls are shaped by natural selection to match ecological challenges. For example, bats flying in open habitats typically emit calls of long duration, with long pulse intervals, shallow frequency modulation, and containing low frequencies-all these are adaptations for long-range detection. As obstacles or prey are approached, call structure changes in predictable ways for several reasons: calls become shorter, thereby reducing overlap between pulse and echo, and calls change in shape in ways that minimize localization errors. At the same time, such changes are believed to support recognition of objects. Echolocation and flight are closely synchronized: we have monitored both features simultaneously by using stereo photogrammetry and video-grammetry, and by acoustic tracking of flight paths. These methods have allowed us to quantify the intensity of signals used by free-living bats, and illustrate systematic changes in signal design in relation to obstacle proximity. We show how signals emitted by aerial feeding bats can be among the most intense airborne sounds in nature. Wideband ambiguity functions developed in the processing of signals produce two-dimensional functions showing trade-offs between resolution of time and velocity, and illustrate costs and benefits associated with Doppler sensitivity and range resolution in echolocation. Remarkably, bats that emit broadband calls can adjust signal design so that Doppler-related overestimation of range compensates for underestimation of range caused by the bat's movement in flight. We show the potential of our methods for understanding interactions between echolocating bats and those prey that have evolved ears that detect bat calls.
Translated title of the contributionUnderstanding signal design during the pursuit of aerial insects by echolocating bats: tools and applications
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74 - 84
Number of pages10
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Volume48(1)
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008

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