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      Echolocation behaviour of the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) in an obstacle avoidance task of increasing difficulty.

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          Four big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) were challenged in an obstacle avoidance experiment to localize vertically stretched wires requiring progressively greater accuracy by diminishing the wire-to-wire distance from 50 to 10 cm. The performance of the bats decreased with decreasing gap size. The avoidance task became very difficult below a wire separation of 30 cm, which corresponds to the average wingspan of E. fuscus. Two of the bats were able to pass without collisions down to a gap size of 10 cm in some of the flights. The other two bats only managed to master gap sizes down to 20 and 30 cm, respectively. They also performed distinctly worse at all other gap sizes. With increasing difficulty of the task, the bats changed their flight and echolocation behaviour. Especially at gap sizes of 30 cm and below, flight paths increased in height and flight speed was reduced. In addition, the bats emitted approach signals that were arranged in groups. At all gap sizes, the largest numbers of pulses per group were observed in the last group before passing the obstacle. The more difficult the obstacle avoidance task, the more pulses there were in the groups and the shorter the within-group pulse intervals. In comparable situations, the better-performing bats always emitted groups with more pulses than the less well-performing individuals. We hypothesize that the accuracy of target localization increases with the number of pulses per group and that each group is processed as a package.

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          Author and article information

          J. Exp. Biol.
          The Journal of experimental biology
          Aug 15 2014
          : 217
          : Pt 16
          [1 ] Animal Physiology, Institute for Neurobiology, University of Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 28, 72076 Tübingen, Germany sonja.saendig@uni-tuebingen.de.
          [2 ] Animal Physiology, Institute for Neurobiology, University of Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 28, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.
          © 2014. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


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