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This Bat Tunes Into Raucous Frog Serenades To Locate Dinner

2019-10-25 21:28| 发布者: hujian| 查看: 21| 评论: 0

摘要:   As creatures of the night, bats>  The flying mammals have evolved one excellent solution: Echolocation, in which they send out sound waves that bounce off prey and pinpoint their whereabouts. Bu ...

 



 As creatures of the night, bats>

  The flying mammals have evolved one excellent solution: Echolocation, in which they send out sound waves that bounce off prey and pinpoint their whereabouts. But this innate superpower represents only a fraction of the amazing and sophisticated ways bats get food.

  Now, scientists have combed through previous literature to compile a master list of these dark talents, published recently in the journal Functional Ecology.

  While many studies have looked specifically into the tools and behaviours bats use to find prey, a more thorough overview of how the predators use their various senses to hunt has been lacking, says study leader Rachel Page, a staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

  “Despite decades of research, we still know fairly little about the underlying sensory and cognitive ecology of most bat species,” of which there are at least 1,300, explains Page. “Because bats are flying night animals, difficult to observe without specialised equipment, their intense study has been fairly recent.”

  Bats’ sensory skills, they found, range from vampire bats that detect the breathing patterns of an individual animal to the Natterer’s bat, which is drawn to the sound of copulating houseflies.

  Overall, the research suggests bats are more gifted—and less understood—than scientists had ever appreciated, she says.

FollowPhotosTHE BEAUTY OF BATS IN 16 INCREDIBLE PICTURESloading...
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  BATS ON THE WING

  A Mexican free-tailed bat comes in for a close-up as it leaves its cave to hunt. Every night from March to October, 1.5 million of these bats stream out from beneath a bridge in downtown Austin, Texas.

  PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE WITH COLE SARTORE, NAT GEO IMAGE COLLECTION

I only have ears for you

  The researchers pored through studies that focus on how insect-eating and carnivorous bats>

  For instance, when echolocation doesn’t work well—for instance in small, closed spaces, like underbrush, where it’s hard to target prey—bats will passively listen for subtle sounds.

  Take the common vampire bat, which feeds entirely on blood surreptitiously gleaned from sleeping mammals. The bats have neurons that only fire in response to the sound of an animal breathing, which is how they locate prey. These bats, found in Central and South America, can even recognise the breathing patterns of a specific host, and return to that same animal, such as a cow, night after night to feed.

  “Vampire bats are usually quite small compared to their hosts—there are dangers of getting trampled or squashed, or of the host waking up during the process and defending itself,” says Page. “It’s possible that once they’ve found a host that they’ve successfully fed from, the safest strategy is to go back to that same host.”

  The New Zealand lesser short-tailed bat is perhaps the master of hunting amid clutter. These “walking” bats spend 40 per cent of their foraging time on the ground—more than any other bat—carefully listening for the sound of insects moving through leaf litter and using tubular nostrils to sniff out the insects’ location.

Nosy nellies

  Some bats exploit their prey’s noisy, nighttime broadcasts, eavesdropping on mating calls like someone listening in on a CB radio.

  Fringe-lipped bats of Central and South America, for instance, find and pick off túngara frogs by zeroing in on the raucous singing of males, which congregate at ponds. By focusing on these mating calls, fringe-lipped bats can find places where frogs gather—and grab plenty of dinner.

  Natterer's bats, native to Europe and the Middle East, are literal buzzkills, attracted to the distinct buzzing sounds of a pair of copulating houseflies—a strategy that gives them a bigger meal.

Dinner bells

  Other bats listen to their fellow night flyers to receive hints on where food is located, gravitating toward the sound of other bats’ echolocation pulses.

FollowVideoBats Eat Bugs So You Don’t Have ToBats need no comic book to champion their true heroic talent: pest control. City dwellers can thank them for eliminating up to 30,000 pesky insects nightly. Take a look inside their elusive urban bat cave, where they stay hidden from the public eye.loading...

  Bats need no comic book to champion their true heroic talent: pest control.

  The lesser bulldog bat of Central and South America keys in on other bulldog bats’ “feeding buzzes”—high-intensity echolocating that bats make as they bear down on insects. This leads the bulldog bats to a temporary bug bonanza swarming over a body of water—and spares them the effort of searching for food.

  “What’s really interesting,” notes Page, is that “bats will eavesdrop on the echolocation calls of other bat species as well.”

Tip of the iceberg

  Yossi Yovel, a zoologist at Tel Aviv University who wasn’t involved in the study, notes it’s a “very good and comprehensive review of the field.”

  Yovel was also impressed how the scientists broke down the hunting strategies into three key groups: listening in on prey movements, exploiting prey communications, and taking cues from other bats hunting nearby.

  Page emphasised that her research is only a first step. “Bats are extraordinary animals, beautifully diverse, highly social, and cognitively flexible,” she says.

  “We are just at the beginning of understanding the patterns underlying their diverse foraging strategies and the ways in which they recruit information to find prey.”

Lead Image: A fringe-lipped bat chows down on a túngara frog on Panama's Barro Colorado Island.

  PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRISTIAN ZIEGLER, NAT GEO IMAGE COLLECTION



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