, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 183-191

Foraging behavior and echolocation of wild horseshoe bats Rhinolophus ferrumequinum and R. hipposideros (Chiroptera, Rhinolophidae)

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Summary

1. Echolocation and foraging behavior of the horseshoe bats Rhinolophus ferrumequinum and R. hipposideros feeding under natural conditions are described. 2. The calls of both species consisted predominantly of a long CF segment, often initiated and terminated by brief FM sweeps of substantial bandwidth. 3. R. hipposideros typically flew close to vegetation, and fed by aerial hawking, gleaning and by pouncing on prey close to the ground. R. hipposideros called with a CF segment close to 112 kHz which is the second harmonic of the vocalization; its calls included low intensity primary harmonics, and had prominent initial and terminal FM sweeps of considerable bandwidth. When searching for prey on the wing it had longer interpulse intervals than R. ferrumequinum, but emitted shorter pulses at a higher repetition rate; overall it had a similar duty cycle to R. ferrumequinum. 4. R. ferrumequinum, calling with a CF segment close to 83 kHz, also used harmonics other than the dominant secondary in its calls, and modified its echolocation according to ecological conditions. This species showed certain parallels with R. rouxi of Asia. It was observed feeding by aerial hawking and by flycatching. When scanning for prey from a perch (perch hunting), calls were of shorter duration, and interpulse intervals were on average longer, than when bats were flying. Mean duty cycle was longer in flight, and the bandwidths and frequency sweep rates of the FM segments in the calls increased in comparison with perched bats. 5. FM information may facilitate determination of target range and the location and nature of obstacles; it may also be involved in the interpretation of echoes and the detection of moving targets among clutter. The rising FM sweep initiating the call in both species when flying (and to a lesser extent perch hunting) in the wild must have a significant adaptive role, and should be considered an essential component of the call; rhinolophids should be termed ‘FM/CF/FM’ bats.