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Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Nov 7;270(1530):2293-9.

Echolocation range and wingbeat period match in aerial-hawking bats.

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Institut für Zoologie II, Friedrich-Alexander Universität, Staudtstrasse 5, DE-91058 Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany.


Aerial-hawking bats searching the sky for prey face the problem that flight and echolocation exert independent and possibly conflicting influences on call intervals. These bats can only exploit their full echolocation range unambiguously if they emit their next call when all echoes from the preceding call would have arrived. However, not every call interval is equally available. The need to reduce the high energetic costs of echolocation forces aerial-hawking bats to couple call emission to their wingbeat. We compared the wingbeat periods of 11 aerial-hawking bat species with the delays of the last-expected echoes. Acoustic flight-path tracking was employed to measure the source levels (SLs) of echolocation calls in the field. SLs were very high, extending the known range to 133 dB peak equivalent sound pressure level. We calculated the maximum detection distances for insects, larger flying objects and background targets. Wingbeat periods were derived from call intervals. Small and medium-sized bats in fact matched their maximum detection range for insects and larger flying targets to their wingbeat period. The tendency to skip calls correlated with the species' detection range for background targets. We argue that a species' call frequency is at such a pitch that the resulting detection range matches their wingbeat period.

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