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      Perception of silent and motionless prey on vegetation by echolocation in the gleaning bat Micronycteris microtis

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          Abstract

          Gleaning insectivorous bats that forage by using echolocation within dense forest vegetation face the sensorial challenge of acoustic masking effects. Active perception of silent and motionless prey in acoustically cluttered environments by echolocation alone has thus been regarded impossible. The gleaning insectivorous bat Micronycteris microtis however, forages in dense understory vegetation and preys on insects, including dragonflies, which rest silent and motionless on vegetation. From behavioural experiments, we show that M. microtis uses echolocation as the sole sensorial modality for successful prey perception within a complex acoustic environment. All individuals performed a stereotypical three-dimensional hovering flight in front of prey items, while continuously emitting short, multi-harmonic, broadband echolocation calls. We observed a high precision in target localization which suggests that M. microtis perceives a detailed acoustic image of the prey based on shape, surface structure and material. Our experiments provide, to our knowledge, the first evidence that a gleaning bat uses echolocation alone for successful detection, classification and precise localization of silent and motionless prey in acoustic clutter. Overall, we conclude that the three-dimensional hovering flight of M. microtis in combination with a frequent emission of short, high-frequency echolocation calls is the key for active prey perception in acoustically highly cluttered environments.

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          Most cited references 44

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          Echolocation by Insect-Eating Bats

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            The Sonar of Dolphins

             Whitlow Au (1993)
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              Bat predation and the evolution of frog vocalizations in the neotropics.

              Bat predation has probably had an important influence on the evolution of frog vocalizations in the Neotropics. The rate at which fringe-lipped bats capture frogs is significantly higher when the frogs are calling. These bats respond to a wide variety of calls from edible frogs, and, when simultaneously presented with a choice, choose the recorded call of a palatable species over that of a poisonous species and the call of a small species over that of one too large to capture. Thus the selective advantages of loud, rapid mating calls in anurans are balanced by an increased risk of predation.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proc Biol Sci
                Proc. Biol. Sci
                RSPB
                royprsb
                Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
                The Royal Society
                0962-8452
                1471-2954
                7 March 2013
                7 March 2013
                : 280
                : 1754
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Institute of Experimental Ecology, University of Ulm , Albert-Einstein-Allee 11, 89069 Ulm, Germany
                [2 ]Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Barro Colorado Island, Roosvelt Avenue, Tupper Building 401, Balboa, Ancón, Panamá, República de Panamá
                Author notes
                Article
                rspb20122830
                10.1098/rspb.2012.2830
                3574334
                23325775

                © 2013 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

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                March 7, 2013

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