, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 1-12

Echolocation in two very small bats from Thailand Craseonycteris thonglongyai and Myotis siligorensis

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Summary

The echolocation and hunting behavior of two very small bats, Craseonycteris thonglongyai (Hill) and Myotis siligorensis (Horsfield), from Thailand, were investigated using multiflash photographs, video, and high-speed tape recordings with a microphone array that allowed determination of distance and direction to the bats. C. thonglongyai is the world's smallest mammal and M. siligorensis is only slightly larger. Both bats hunted insects in open areas. The search signals of C. thonglongyai were 3.5 ms long multiharmonic constant frequency (CF) signals with a prominent second harmonic at 73 kHz repeated at around 22 Hz. The band width (BW) of the short terminal frequency modulated (FM) sweep increased during the very short approach phase. In the final buzz the CF component disappeared, the duration decreased to 0.2 ms, and the repetition rate increased to 215 Hz (Figs. 2, 3, 4). There was no drop in frequency in the buzz. The video recordings of C. thonglongyai indicated that it seizes insects directly with the mouth (Fig. 1). M. siligorensis produced 5.4 ms long CF search signals at 66 kHz. The repetition rate was around 13 Hz. In the approach phase an initial broad band FM sweep was added. The buzz consisted of two phases, buzz I and buzz II. Buzz 11 was characterized by short cry durations (around 0.3 ms), a constant high repetition rate (185 Hz), a distinct drop in frequency, and a prominent second harmonic (Figs. 5, 6, 7). The drop in frequency, apparently typical of vespertilionid bats, has been explained by physiological limitations in sound production. However, C. thonglongyai produced very short signals at very high repetition rates without any frequency drop. The drop may be of adaptive value since it enables M. siligorensis to produce very short signals with high sweep rates. The drop moves the pronounced second harmonic into the frequency range of most interest to the bat (Fig. 7D). The sweep rate in this frequency range may now increase to twice the maximum rate that the vocal cords can produce directly. C. thonglongyai and M. siligorensis belong to different superfamilies, Emballonuroidea and Vespertilionoidea, respectively. In spite of their phylogenetic distance they produce strikingly similar search signals of narrow BW around 70 kHz with high source levels (100–115 dB peSPL peak equivalent sound pressure level). We argue that the signal resemblance is due to the similarity in size and hunting behavior of the two bats both hunting insects in open areas. High frequencies are heavily attenuated in air, but because of their small size the bats are restricted to hunting small insects which only reflect echoes at high frequencies. Thus, the emitted frequency is probably the lowest possible given the prey size. Hence, the two bats can only maximize the range of their sonar by decreasing the BW and emitting high intensities.

Correspondence to: A. Surlykke