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PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e38791. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038791. Epub 2012 Jun 14.

Adult vampire bats produce contact calls when isolated: acoustic variation by species, population, colony, and individual.

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Biological Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, United States of America.



Bat pups produce individually distinct isolation calls to facilitate maternal recognition. Increasing evidence suggests that, in group-living bat species, adults often use similar calls to maintain contact. We investigated if isolated adults from all three species of the highly cooperative vampire bats (Phyllostomidae: Desmodontinae) would produce vocally distinct contact calls when physically isolated.


We assessed variation in contact calls recorded from isolated captive and wild-caught adult common vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus), white-winged vampire bats (Diaemus youngi) and hairy-legged vampire bats (Diphylla ecaudata). We compared species-typical contact call structure, and used information theory and permuted discriminate function analyses to examine call structure variation, and to determine if the individuality of contact calls is encoded by different call features across species and populations. We found that isolated adult vampire bats produce contact calls that vary by species, population, colony, and individual. However, much variation occurred within a single context and individual. We estimated signature information for captive Diaemus (same colony), captive Desmodus (same colony), and wild Desmodus (different colonies) at 3.21, 3.26, and 3.88 bits, respectively. Contact calls from a captive colony of Desmodus were less individually distinct than calls from wild-caught Desmodus from different colonies. Both the degree of individuality and parameters encoding individuality differed between the bats from a single captive colony and the wild-caught individuals from different groups. This result is consistent with, but not sufficient evidence of, vocal convergence in groups.


Our results show that adult vampire bats of all three species produce highly variable contact calls when isolated. Contact calls contain sufficient information for vocal discrimination, but also possess more intra-individual variation than is required for the sole purpose of identifying individuals.

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