Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Exp Biol. 2011 Apr 1;214(Pt 7):1131-7. doi: 10.1242/jeb.048967.

High duty cycle echolocation and prey detection by bats.

Author information

  • 1Department of Biology, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada, N6A 5B7.


There are two very different approaches to laryngeal echolocation in bats. Although most bats separate pulse and echo in time by signalling at low duty cycles (LDCs), almost 20% of species produce calls at high duty cycles (HDCs) and separate pulse and echo in frequency. HDC echolocators are sensitive to Doppler shifts. HDC echolocation is well suited to detecting fluttering targets such as flying insects against a cluttered background. We used two complementary experiments to evaluate the relative effectiveness of LDC and HDC echolocation for detecting fluttering prey. We measured echoes from fluttering targets by broadcasting artificial bat calls, and found that echo amplitude was greatest for sounds similar to those used in HDC echolocation. We also collected field recordings of syntopic LDC and HDC bats approaching an insect-like fluttering target and found that HDC bats approached the target more often (18.6% of passes) than LDC bats (1.2% of passes). Our results suggest that some echolocation call characteristics, particularly duty cycle and pulse duration, translate into improved ability to detect fluttering targets in clutter, and that HDC echolocation confers a superior ability to detect fluttering prey in the forest understory compared with LDC echolocation. The prevalence of moths in the diets of HDC bats, which is often used as support for the allotonic frequency hypothesis, can therefore be partly explained by the better flutter detection ability of HDC bats.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk