Original Paper

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 333-340

First online:

Behavioral evidence for eavesdropping on prey song in two Palearctic sibling bat species

  • Patricia L. JonesAffiliated withSensory Ecology Group, Max Planck Institute for OrnithologySection of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin
  • , Rachel A. PageAffiliated withSensory Ecology Group, Max Planck Institute for OrnithologySmithsonian Tropical Research Institute
  • , Manfred HartbauerAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, Karl-Franzens Universität
  • , Björn M. SiemersAffiliated withSensory Ecology Group, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology Email author 

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Eavesdropping on prey communication signals has never before been reported for a Palearctic bat species. In this study, we investigated whether lesser and greater mouse-eared bats, Myotis blythii oxygnathus and Myotis myotis, find tettigoniid bushcrickets (Tettigoniidae) by eavesdropping on their mate-attraction song. Tettigoniids are known to be the most important prey item for M. blythii oxygnathus, while carabid beetles and other epigaeic arthropods are the most important prey for its sibling species, M. myotis, in many places in Europe. M. myotis locates walking beetles by listening for their rustling sounds. We compared these two species’ response to four acoustic prey cues: calling song of two tettigoniid species, the rustling sound made by walking carabid beetles, and a control tone. Individuals of both bat species attacked the speaker playing tettigoniid song, which clearly indicates that both species eavesdrop on prey-generated advertisement signals. There were, however, species differences in response. M. blythii oxygnathus exhibited stronger predatory responses to the calling song of two species of tettigoniid than to the beetle rustling sound or the control. M. myotis, in contrast, exhibited stronger predatory responses to the beetle rustling and to one tettigoniid species but not the other tettigoniid or the control. Our study (1) for the first time demonstrates eavesdropping on prey communication signals for Palearctic bats and (2) gives preliminary evidence for sensory niche partitioning between these two sympatric sibling bat species.


Advertisement call Eavesdropping Bat Orthoptera Sensory ecology Niche partitioning Myotis myotis Myotis blythii oxygnathus Tettigonia cantans Tettigonia viridissima