, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 225-238

The echolocation and hunting behavior of Daubenton's bat, Myotis daubentoni

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Summary

The echolocation and hunting behavior of Daubenton's bat (Myotis daubentoni) were studied in the field under completely natural conditions using a multiflash photographic system synchronized with high-speed tape recordings. The hunting behavior of M. daubentoni is separated into four stages. In the search flight stage Daubenton's bat flies with an average speed of 3.4±0.6 m/s SD usually within 30 cm over water surfaces searching for insects. After the detection of potential prey, the approach flight stage occurs, during which the bat approaches the target in a goal-directed flight. The stage tail down indicates that M. daubentoni is close to the potential prey (approximately 10–22 cm) and is preparing for the catch. The insects are caught with the interfemoral membrane, the feet, and sometimes with the additional aid of a wing. In the stage head down, the bat seizes the prey during flight. Immediately afterwards, Daubenton's bat returns to search flight. M. daubentoni shows the typical echolocation behavior of a vespertilionid bat, emitting frequency-modulated (FM) echolocation signals. The three behavioral stages search, approach, and terminal phase (Griffin et al. 1960) are used to describe the pulse pattern of foraging M. daubentoni in the field. The terminal phase (or buzz) of Daubenton's bat is separated into two parts: buzz I and buzz II. Buzz II is distinguished from buzz I by the following characteristics: a sharp drop in terminal frequency, a distinct reduction in the bandwidth of the first harmonic, a continuous high repetition rate throughout the phase in the range 155–210 Hz, very short pulses (0,25–0.3 ms) and interpulse intervals (4.5–5.0 ms) at the end of the phase, and a distinct decrease in duty cycle. A pause in echolocation separates the end of the terminal phase from the ongoing search phase. The reduction in sound duration after the detection of a target and during pursuits with successfull or attempted catches is discussed in relation to the actual distance of the bat to the target at each stage. It is likely that Daubenton's bat reduces sound duration during approach and terminal phase in order to prevent an overlap of an outgoing pulse with the returning echo from the target. It is argued that the minimum detection distance can be estimated from the sound duration during search flight. Estimates of detection and reaction distances of M. daubentoni based upon synchronized photos and echolocation sequences are given to corroborate this hypothesis. An average detection distance of 128 cm and an average reaction distance of 112 cm were determined. Each behavioral stage of foraging M. daubentoni is characterized by a distinct pattern of echolocation signals and a distinct stage in hunting behavior. The approach flight in hunting behavior coincides with the approach phase and with buzz I in echolocation behavior. The stage tail down corresponds to buzz II. The stage head down is correlated with a pause in echolocation. Immediately afterwards, the bat returns into search flight and into the search phase, emitting search signals.