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Wild bats briefly decouple sound production from wingbeats to increase sensory flow during prey captures

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Active sensing animals such as echolocating bats produce the energy with which they probe their environment. The intense echolocation calls of bats are energetically expensive, but their cost can be reduced by synchronizing the exhalations needed to vocalize to wingbeats. Here, we use sound-and-movement recording tags to investigate how wild bats balance efficient sound production with information needs during foraging and navigation. We show that wild bats prioritize energy efficiency over sensory flow when periodic snapshots of the acoustic scene are sufficient during travel and search. Rapid calls during tracking and interception of close prey are decoupled from the wingbeat but are weaker and comprise <2% of all calls during a night of hunting. The limited use of fast sonar sampling provides bats with high information update rates during critical hunting moments but adds little to their overall costs of sound production despite the inefficiency of decoupling calls from wingbeats.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102896
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)

    Research areas

  • biological sciences, ecology, environmental science, ethology, zoology

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