, Volume 168, Issue 5, pp 571-579

Arctiid moth clicks can degrade the accuracy of range difference discrimination in echolocating big brown bats, Eptesicus fuscus

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Summary

Four big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) born and raised in captivity were trained using the Yes/No psychophysical method to report whether a virtual sonar target was at a standard distance or not. At threshold bats were able to detect a minimum range difference of 6 mm (a Δt of 36 μs).

Following threshold determinations, a click burst 1.8 ms long containing 5 pulses from the ruby tiger moth, Phragmatobia fuliginosa (Arctiidae), was presented randomly after each phantom echo. The sound energy of the click burst was -4 dB relative to that of the phantom echo. Clicks presented for the very first time could startle naive bats to different degrees depending on the individual.

The bats' performance deteriorated by as much as 4000% when the click burst started within a window of about 1.5 ms before the phantom echo (Fig. 4). Even when one of ten phantom echoes was preceded by a click burst, the range difference discrimination worsened by 200% (Fig. 9). Hence, clicks falling within the 1.5 ms time window seem to interfere with the bat's neural timing mechanism.

The clicks of arctiid moths appear to serve 3 functions: they can startle naive bats, interfere with range difference determinations, or they can signal the moth's distastefulness, as shown in earlier studies.