Superfast Lombard response in free-flying, echolocating bats

Michael Bjerre Pedersen*, Martin Egenhardt, Kristian Beedholm, Marie Rosenkjær Skalshøi, Astrid Særmark Uebel, Antoniya Hubancheva, Kaloyana Koseva, Cynthia F. Moss, Jinhong Luo, Laura Stidsholt, Peter Teglberg Madsen

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde

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Acoustic cues are crucial to communication, navigation, and foraging in many animals, which hence face the problem of detecting and discriminating these cues in fluctuating noise levels from natural or anthropogenic sources. Such auditory dynamics are perhaps most extreme for echolocating bats that navigate and hunt prey on the wing in darkness by listening for weak echo returns from their powerful calls in complex, self-generated umwelts.1 , 2 Due to high absorption of ultrasound in air and fast flight speeds, bats operate with short prey detection ranges and dynamic sensory volumes,3 leading us to hypothesize that bats employ superfast vocal-motor adjustments to rapidly changing sensory scenes. To test this hypothesis, we investigated the onset and offset times and magnitude of the Lombard response in free-flying echolocating greater mouse-eared bats exposed to onsets of intense constant or duty-cycled masking noise during a landing task. We found that the bats invoked a bandwidth-dependent Lombard response of 0.1–0.2 dB per dB increase in noise, with very short delay and relapse times of 20 ms in response to onsets and termination of duty-cycled noise. In concert with the absence call time-locking to noise-free periods, these results show that free-flying bats exhibit a superfast, but hard-wired, vocal-motor response to increased noise levels. We posit that this reflex is mediated by simple closed-loop audio-motor feedback circuits that operate independently of wingbeat and respiration cycles to allow for rapid adjustments to the highly dynamic auditory scenes encountered by these small predators.

TidsskriftCurrent Biology
Sider (fra-til)2509-2516.e3
StatusUdgivet - jun. 2024


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