Eavesdropping by bats on the feeding buzzes of conspecifics

Gillam, E. H.
July 2007
Canadian Journal of Zoology;Jul2007, Vol. 85 Issue 7, p795
Academic Journal
Echolocation calls of most bats are emitted at high intensities and subject to eavesdropping by nearby conspecifics. Bats may be especially attentive to “feeding buzz” calls, which are emitted immediately before attack on airborne insects and indicate the potential presence of prey in the nearby area. Although previous work has shown that some species are attracted to feeding buzzes, these studies did not provide a well-controlled test of eavesdropping, as comparisons were made between responses to natural and altered signals (e.g., forward versus backward broadcasts of calls). In this study, I assessed the importance of feeding buzzes by conducting playbacks of controlled echolocation stimuli. I presented free-flying Brazilian free-tailed bats, Tadarida brasiliensis (I. Geoffroy, 1824), with echolocation call sequences in which feeding buzz calls were either present or absent, as well as a silence control. I determined levels of bat activity by counting the number of echolocation calls and bat passes recorded in the presence of each stimulus, and found significantly greater bat activity in response to broadcasts that contained feeding buzzes than to broadcasts without feeding buzzes or to the silence control. These results indicate that bats are especially attentive to conspecific feeding buzz calls and that eavesdropping may allow a bat to more readily locate rich patches of insect prey.


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