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Bat Uses Echolocation to Hunt in Noisy Environment, Study Shows

Sep 16, 2016 05:17 AM EDT
Bat
When the environment that surrounds them is too "noisy," bats shift their gears and adapt by using their secondary sense: echolocation.
(Photo : Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

When the environment that surrounds them is too "noisy," bats shift their gears and adapt by using their secondary sense: echolocation. An experiment conducted by researchers from the University of Texas, wherein they tested if bats can still "hunt" their prey even though the place is noisy, determine that bats can adapt with these changes. The study was published in the journal Science.

According in Science Daily, echolocation is a technique used by some animals to sense several objects and movement. To do this, animals will examine the environment with high frequency sounds and asses the reflections.

Echolocation is a very important sensory mode for some animals as they used it to capture their prey even though it is far away. Researcher Mike Ryan described this as "being in a noisy party" where we tend to zone out other noises whenever we try to locate somebody in particular. However, when there are too many noises, we use our other senses.

With the world being more industrialized than ever, noise is already part of our everyday life. The researchers wanted to know how the animals' lives will be affected with this. Will there be change of patterns on how they get their food?

Bats are known for using this ability to use echolocation and have an impressive hearing to find their prey or to assess its surroundings; thus, they are perfect candidates for this study. For the experiment, the researchers observed how 12 bats that were caught in the wild can capture two robotic túngara frogs as preys. The hitch? The bats were surrounded by a man-made noise that will overpower the sounds made by the frogs. One of the frogs uses mating calls, while the other has a fake moving vocal sac, Popular Science reports.

A previous article about bats shows that they waggle their heads and listen to their prey to locate them. In this case, however, it took the bats a while before they can actually figure out where to find their prey.

The bats were able to locate the frog with a moving vocal sac more easily than the other frog with sounds. Too much noise took them a while to locate the sounds that the bats rely on to locate movements via echolocation, such as the moving vocal sac.

"This shows that bats are much more flexible than we previously thought," says Wouter Halfwerk, one of the researchers of the study. "They can actively switch which sensory cues they use, which is very similar to what humans do when we're trying to talk to someone in a noisy environment--we start paying attention to their lip movements as they speak."

Read more about these amazing bats and their abilities in this article found in Nature World News.

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