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J Exp Biol. 1995 Jan;198(Pt 1):175-91.

Respiratory muscle activity in relation to vocalization in flying bats.

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Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 27599-7090.


The structure of the thoracic and abdominal walls of Pteronotus parnellii (Microchiroptera: Mormoopidae) was described with respect to their function in respiration and vocalization. We monitored electromyographic activity of respiratory and flight muscles in relation to echolocative vocalization. In flight, signals were telemetered with a small FM transmitter modified to summate the low-frequency myopotentials with biosonar signals from a ceramic-crystal microphone. Recordings were also made from the same bats confined to a small cage. Vocalizations were used as the parameter by which all muscle activities were correlated. A discrete burst of activity in the lateral abdominal wall muscles accompanied each vocalization. Diaphragmatic myopotentials occurred between groups of calls and did not coincide with activity of the abdominal wall or with vocalizations. Flight muscles were not active in resting bats. During flight, vocalizations and the abdominal muscle activity that accompanied them coincided with myopotentials of the pectoralis and serratus ventralis muscles. We propose that contractions of the lateral abdominal wall provide the primary power for the production of intense biosonar vocalization in flying and in stationary bats. In flight, synchronization of vocalization with activity of the pectoralis and serratus ventralis jointly contribute to the pressurization of the thoraco-abdominal cavity. This utilization of pressure that is normally generated in flight facilitates respiration and allows for the production of intense vocalizations with little additional energetic expenditure.

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