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Bats Decoded: Fruit Bat Chatter is More Advanced Than You Think

Dec 29, 2016 10:28 AM EST

The high-pitched chatter of bats may simply be annoyances to human ear, but to the winged creatures, it's a pretty complex communication system. New research published in Scientific Reports revealed that the buzz among fruit bats are just as detailed as communication among dolphins and monkeys.

According to a news report from Nature, the fruit bat is one of the few species that actually directs its noises to particular individuals. The scientists who participated in the study were able to identify four classifications that make up about 60 percent of bat chatter: food, sleeping position, protest over mating, and arguments when positioned near each other.

"If you go into a fruit-bat cave, you hear a cacophony," Yossi Yovel pointed out. A neuroecologist at Tel Aviv University, Yovel led a team of researchers in conducting the recent study.

To reach their findings, the group observed a total of 22 captive Egyptian fruit bats over a period of 75 days, using a modified voice-recognition program to analyze vocalizations against recorded social interactions on video. They were able to identify the specific bat "talking" over 70 percent of the time, and the bat it's communicating to roughly 50 percent of the time.

One of the team's observations is that there are slight changes to the sounds being made by the bats depending on who they are communicating with. This is especially apparent when an individual of the opposite sex is involved. It's reminiscent of humans' own varying tones when addressing different people, as well as dolphins and monkeys. They're also found to be very vocal when there is a bit of conflict with other bats.

Although the study has already made its mark in expanding the information on communication of bats, Yovel said their work is not done. They are currently studying the response of bats to different kinds of sounds.

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