Original Paper

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 10, pp 1599-1613

First online:

Unusual echolocation behavior in a small molossid bat, Molossops temminckii, that forages near background clutter

  • Antonio Guillén-ServentAffiliated withInstituto de Ecología, A. C. Email author 
  • , Carlos IbáñezAffiliated withEstación Biológica de Doñana (CSIC)

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When searching for flying insects, Molossops temminckii uses unusual echolocation calls characterized by upward modulation of frequency vs time (UFM). Call frequency increases asymptotically in the relatively long (∼8 ms) pulses from a starting frequency of ∼40 kHz to a long narrowband tail at ∼50 kHz. When approaching a prey, the bat progressively increases the duration of calls and intersperses in the sequence broadband downwardly frequency-modulated signals with a terminal frequency of about 53 kHz, which totally replaces the UFM signals at the end of the approach phase. The sequence progresses to a capture buzz resembling those from other molossid and vespertilionid bats. The M. temminckii wing morphology is characterized by an average aspect ratio and a high wing loading, suggesting that it is more maneuverable than the typical Molossidae but less than typical Vespertilionidae. M. temminckii regularly forages near clutter, where it needs to pay attention to the background and might face forward and backward masking of signals. We hypothesize that the UFM echolocation signals of M. temminckii represent an adaptation to foraging near background clutter in a not very maneuverable bat needing a broad attention window. The broadband component of the signal might serve for the perception of the background and the narrowband tail for detection and perhaps classification of prey. Bats may solve the signal masking problems by separating emission and echoes in the frequency domain. The echolocation behavior of M. temminckii may shed light on the evolution of the narrowband frequency analysis echolocation systems adopted by some bats foraging within clutter.


Echolocation Evolution Foraging behavior Molossops temminckii Narrowband signals