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Regina Bailey

How Bats Use Sound to Locate Prey

By March 9, 2006

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Researchers reveal that bats use a process called active listening to locate prey in clustered environments.

In active listening, bats adjust their vocal cries emitting sounds of variable pitch, length, and repetition rate.

They can then determine details about their environment from the returning sounds.

  • Echo with a sliding pitch indicates a moving object.

  • Intensity flickers indicate a fluttering wing.

  • Time delays between cry and echo indicate distance.

Image: Echolocating bats adjust their vocalizations to catch insects against a changing environmental background. (Photo: © Chanut F 2006)

Read about this story: The Sound of Dinner (Chanut F (2006) The Sound of Dinner. PLoS Biol 4(4): e107)

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