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      Hunting bats adjust their echolocation to receive weak prey echoes for clutter reduction


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          Bat-borne tags reveal faint echoes and fast sensorimotor responses that reduce acoustic clutter in complex foraging habitats.


          How animals extract information from their surroundings to guide motor patterns is central to their survival. Here, we use echo-recording tags to show how wild hunting bats adjust their sensory strategies to their prey and natural environment. When searching, bats maximize the chances of detecting small prey by using large sensory volumes. During prey pursuit, they trade spatial for temporal information by reducing sensory volumes while increasing update rate and redundancy of their sensory scenes. These adjustments lead to very weak prey echoes that bats protect from interference by segregating prey sensory streams from the background using a combination of fast-acting sensory and motor strategies. Counterintuitively, these weak sensory scenes allow bats to be efficient hunters close to background clutter broadening the niches available to hunt for insects.

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          Most cited references46

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          The echolocation of flying insects by bats

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            Plasticity in echolocation signals of European pipistrelle bats in search flight: implications for habitat use and prey detection

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              Echolocation behavior of big brown bats, Eptesicus fuscus, in the field and the laboratory.

              Echolocation signals were recorded from big brown bats, Eptesicus fuscus, flying in the field and the laboratory. In open field areas the interpulse intervals (IPI) of search signals were either around 134 ms or twice that value, 270 ms. At long IPI's the signals were of long duration (14 to 18-20 ms), narrow bandwidth, and low frequency, sweeping down to a minimum frequency (Fmin) of 22-25 kHz. At short IPI's the signals were shorter (6-13 ms), of higher frequency, and broader bandwidth. In wooded areas only short (6-11 ms) relatively broadband search signals were emitted at a higher rate (avg. IPI= 122 ms) with higher Fmin (27-30 kHz). In the laboratory the IPI was even shorter (88 ms), the duration was 3-5 ms, and the Fmin 30- 35 kHz, resembling approach phase signals of field recordings. Excluding terminal phase signals, all signals from all areas showed a negative correlation between signal duration and Fmin, i.e., the shorter the signal, the higher was Fmin. This correlation was reversed in the terminal phase of insect capture sequences, where Fmin decreased with decreasing signal duration. Overall, the signals recorded in the field were longer, with longer IPI's and greater variability in bandwidth than signals recorded in the laboratory.

                Author and article information

                Sci Adv
                Sci Adv
                Science Advances
                American Association for the Advancement of Science
                March 2021
                03 March 2021
                : 7
                : 10
                [1 ]Zoophysiology, Department of Biology, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.
                [2 ]Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.
                [3 ]Acoustic and Functional Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany.
                [4 ]Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author. Email: laura.stidsholt@ 123456bio.au.dk
                Copyright © 2021 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC).

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

                Funded by: doi http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100001659, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft;
                Award ID: 241711556
                Funded by: doi http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100002808, Carlsbergfondet;
                Award ID: Semper Ardens
                Research Article
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                Nicole Falcasantos


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