, Volume 161, Issue 6, pp 899-913

Ontogenesis of the echolocation system in the rufous horseshoe bat,Rhinolophus rouxi (Audition and vocalization in early postnatal development)

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  1. The development of vocalization and hearing was studied in Sri Lankan horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus rouxi) during the first postnatal month. The young bats were caught in a nursing colony of rhinolophids in which birth took place within a two week period.

  2. The new-born bats emitted isolation calls through the mouth. At the beginning these calls consisted of pure tones with frequencies below 10 kHz (Fig. 1). During the first postnatal week the call frequency increased to about 15 kHz, and the fundamental was augmented by two to four harmonics. No evoked potentials to pure tone stimuli could be elicited in the inferior colliculus of this age group, i.e., auditory processing at the midbrain level was not demonstrable.

  3. Evoked potentials were first recorded in the second week, broadly tuned to 15–45 kHz, with a maximum sensitivity between 15–25 kHz. In the course of the second week, however, higher frequencies up to 60 kHz became progressively incorporated into the audiogram (Fig. 3). The fundamental frequency of the multiharmonic isolation calls, emitted strictly through the mouth, increased to about 20 kHz.

  4. In the bats' third postnatal week an increased hearing sensitivity (auditory filter) emerged, sharply tuned at frequencies between 57 and 60 kHz (Fig. 4e). The same individuals were also the first to emit long constant frequency echolocation calls through the nostrils (Fig. 4c). The energy of the calls was arranged in harmonic frequency bands with the second harmonic exactly tuned to the auditory filter. These young bats continued to emit isolation calls through the mouth, which were, however, not harmonically related to the echolocation calls (Fig. 4b, d).

  5. During the fourth week, both the auditory filter and the matched echolocation pulses (the second harmonic) shifted towards higher frequencies (Fig. 5). During the fifth week the fundamental frequency of the calls was progressively attenuated, and both the second harmonic of the pulses and the auditory filter reached the frequency range typical for adult bats of 73–78 kHz (Fig. 6).

  6. The development of audition and vocalization is discussed with regard to possible interactions of both subsystems, and their incorporation into the active orientation system of echolocation.

Supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft as part of Sonderforschungsbereich No. 114 and No. 204, München, and by the Joint Research Project of the University of Kelaniya and the University of München on the Biology and Ecology of Echolocating Bats in Sri Lanka