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Naturwissenschaften. 2005 Jun;92(6):272-6. Epub 2005 May 4.

Acoustic mirror effect increases prey detection distance in trawling bats.

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Animal Physiology, Zoological Institute, Tübingen University, Auf der Morgenstelle 28, 72076, Tübingen, Germany.


Many different and phylogenetically distant species of bats forage for insects above water bodies and take insects from and close to the surface; the so-called 'trawling behaviour'. Detection of surface-based prey by echolocation is facilitated by acoustically smooth backgrounds such as water surfaces that reflect sound impinging at an acute angle away from the bat and thereby render a prey object acoustically conspicuous. Previous measurements had shown that the echo amplitude of a target on a smooth surface is higher than that of the same target in mid-air, due to an acoustic mirror effect. In behavioural experiments with three pond bats (Myotis dasycneme), we tested the hypothesis that the maximum distances at which bats can detect prey are larger for prey on smooth surfaces than for the same prey in an airborne situation. We determined the moment of prey detection from a change in echolocation behaviour and measured the detection distance in 3D space from IR-video recordings using stereo-photogrammetry. The bats showed the predicted increase in detection distance for prey on smooth surfaces. The acoustic mirror effect therefore increases search efficiency and contributes to the acoustic advantages encountered by echolocating bats when foraging at low heights above smooth water surfaces. These acoustic advantages may have favoured the repeated evolution of trawling behaviour.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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