Register for updates

 
 

Biology & Evolution
RSS Feed
How Bats Recognize Their Own "Bat Signals"
Thursday, January 28, 2016 9:30:00 AM

TAU researcher discovers a unique mechanism bats use to overcome communication interference in the wild

Individual bats emit sonar calls in the dark, using the echo of their signature sounds to identify and target potential prey. But because they travel in large groups, their signals often "jam" each other, a problem resembling extreme radar interference. How do bats overcome this "cocktail party" cacophony to feed and survive in the wild?

A new Tel Aviv University study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences identifies the mechanism that allows individual bats to stand out from the crowd. The research, by Dr. Yossi Yovel of TAU's Department of Zoology, finds that individual bats manage to avoid noise overlap by increasing the volume, duration and repetition rate of their signals.

According to Dr. Yovel, unlocking the mystery of bat echo recognition may offer a valuable insight into military and civilian radar systems, which are vulnerable to electronic interference.

Cocktail party chatter

"Imagine you are at a cocktail party where everyone is uttering the same word over and over again, and you are expected to recognize the echo of your own utterance to identify the location of the punch bowl," Dr. Yovel said. "Now imagine that this is tantamount to your survival. This is the bat experience. Bats often fly in groups and rely on sounds — very similar sounds — to find their food. They deal with two challenges: They need to detect weak echoes in a cluster of noise, and if they manage to receive the echo, they need to recognize it as their own."

Dr. Yovel and his team of TAU researchers, including Eran Amichai and Dr. Gaddi Blumrosen, tested bat responses in situations mimicking a high density of bats. They played back bat echolocation calls from multiple speakers to jam the echoes of five flying Pipistrellus kuhlii bats, simulating a naturally occurring situation of many bats flying in proximity. Under severe interference, bats emitted calls of higher intensity and longer duration, and called more often — but they did not change the pitch of their signals, as was previously believed.

The new study builds on previous research conducted by Dr. Yovel in which he developed miniature microphones, attached to bat backs, allowing for the first-ever recording of bat frequencies in real time.

"In a study we conducted last year, we found evidence that bats do not harness any such 'jamming avoidance,' as hypothesized in the past by other scientists," said Dr. Yovel. He believes that they simply recognize their own voices.

"In another paper, published in 2009, we trained bats to crawl toward one side or another, in the direction of another bat," Dr. Yovel explained. "This indicated that they indeed differentiated between the voice of one bat and another. This also proved they could identify their own calls.

"In the current study, we trained bats to fly around a small room and land on a small object – in the midst of a loud mixture of bat signals playing overhead. They found the object by increasing their emissions: crying louder and longer and shouting more frequently. They cried 'ahhhhhhh' instead of 'ah' twice as frequently — every 50 milliseconds instead of the usual 100 milliseconds."

From bats to automobiles

According to Dr. Yovel, this research may provide insight into engineering used for human beings.

"We want to understand the problem," said Dr. Yovel. "The better we understand the radar interference problem, the easier it will be to solve. In the future, we will all have radar systems in our cars, and there can be hundreds of these on a stretch of highway as well. Individuality must be built into these radar codes, very clear signature codes."

Dr. Yovel is currently seeking how individuality is intrinsic to bat codes, which continues to escape scientific research.




Latest News

Genetically Encoded Sensor Isolates Hidden Leukemic Stem Cells

Cells express surface markers that help them escape most targeted therapies, TAU researchers say.

Be Nice to Your Doctor — You May Receive Better Care

Under most conditions, positive social interactions have beneficial implications for employee performance, say TAU researchers.

PCV Vaccine Leads to Steep Decline in Childhood Hospitalizations Due to Community-Acquired Bacteremia

Vaccine also decreased antibiotic resistance patterns, TAU researchers say.

Physicists Solve 35-Year-Old Mystery About Quarks

Number of proton-neutron pairs in an atom determines how fast particles move, say TAU, MIT, Thomas Jefferson researchers.

New Blood Test May Map Fetal Genome for Countless Mutations

Test could detect innumerable diseases caused by minuscule impairments in the fetal genome, TAU researchers say.

New Imaging Technology Captures Movement of Quantum Particles With Unprecedented Resolution

Method paves the way for ultrafast control and extreme spatiotemporal imaging of condensed matter, TAU researchers say.

Lightning's Electromagnetic Fields May Have Protective Properties

Extremely low frequency fields may have played an evolutionary role in living organisms, say TAU researchers.

Study Links Adult Fibromyalgia to Childhood Sexual Abuse

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions are an effective treatment, TAU researchers say.

Adolescents With Celiac Disease Are at Higher Risk of Eating Disorders

Overweight teenage girls with CD are at highest risk of developing early hallmarks of full-blown eating disorders, TAU researchers say.

White Blood Cells Related to Allergies and Asthma May Also Be Harnessed to Destroy Cancer Cells

Eosinophil immune cells are capable of killing colon cancer cells, TAU researchers say.

contentSecondary
c

© 2019 American Friends of Tel Aviv University
39 Broadway, Suite 1510 | New York, NY 10006 | 212.742.9070 | info@aftau.org
Privacy policy | Tel Aviv University