June 9, 2009

Bats know individual voices of other bats

German scientists have discovered bats can use echolocation in identifying characteristics of other individual bats' voices to recognize each other.

Researchers from the University of Tuebingen and the University of Applied Sciences in Konstanz said they first tested the ability of four greater mouse-eared bats to distinguish between the echolocation calls of other bats. After observing the bats learned to discriminate the voices of other bats, then they programmed a computer model that reproduces the recognition behavior of the bats.

They said an analysis of the model suggests the spectral energy distribution in the signals contains individual-specific information that allows one bat to recognize another.

The scientists said little is known about how bats perform strenuous social tasks, such as remaining in a group when flying at high speeds in darkness. The finding that bats can recognize other bats within their own species based on their echolocation calls might therefore have some significant implications, they said.

The research appears in the journal PLoS Computational Biology.