, Volume 61, Issue 4, pp 513-523
Date: 07 Oct 2006

Echolocation behavior of the bat Vespertilio murinus reveals the border between the habitat types “edge” and “open space”

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Abstract

We test the hypothesis that echolocation behavior can be used to find the border between bat habitats. Assuming that bats react to background targets in “edge space” but not in “open space”, we determined the border between these two habitat types for commuting individuals of the parti-colored bat Vespertilio murinus. We recorded sequences of bats’ echolocation signals while they flew parallel to the walls of large buildings and to the ground and determined the signals’ average bandwidth, duration, and pulse interval. These parameters varied systematically with the estimated horizontal and vertical distances between the bats and the background. A distinct effect of horizontal distance to the background on echolocation behavior was found for horizontal distances of less than 6 m, thus indicating the border between edge and open space. Only a few bats flew at vertical distances below 5 m. However, enough passages at vertical distances of 5 m and above indicated that the vertical border is somewhere below a distance of 5 m. Within edge space, V. murinus reacted to the background by reducing signal duration, increasing bandwidth at closer distances, and often emitting one signal per wing beat. In open space, signal parameters did not vary as a function of distance to the background. There, V. murinus emitted the longest signals with the narrowest bandwidth and often made one or two wing beats without emitting a pulse. With our data we support with statistical methods the hypothesis that echolocation behavior reveals the border between the habitat types “edge” and “open space”.

Communicated by T. Czeschlik