Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 4, pp 513–523 | Cite as

Echolocation behavior of the bat Vespertilio murinus reveals the border between the habitat types “edge” and “open space”

  • Andrea SchaubEmail author
  • Hans Ulrich Schnitzler
Original Article


We test the hypothesis that echolocation behavior can be used to find the border between bat habitats. Assuming that bats react to background targets in “edge space” but not in “open space”, we determined the border between these two habitat types for commuting individuals of the parti-colored bat Vespertilio murinus. We recorded sequences of bats’ echolocation signals while they flew parallel to the walls of large buildings and to the ground and determined the signals’ average bandwidth, duration, and pulse interval. These parameters varied systematically with the estimated horizontal and vertical distances between the bats and the background. A distinct effect of horizontal distance to the background on echolocation behavior was found for horizontal distances of less than 6 m, thus indicating the border between edge and open space. Only a few bats flew at vertical distances below 5 m. However, enough passages at vertical distances of 5 m and above indicated that the vertical border is somewhere below a distance of 5 m. Within edge space, V. murinus reacted to the background by reducing signal duration, increasing bandwidth at closer distances, and often emitting one signal per wing beat. In open space, signal parameters did not vary as a function of distance to the background. There, V. murinus emitted the longest signals with the narrowest bandwidth and often made one or two wing beats without emitting a pulse. With our data we support with statistical methods the hypothesis that echolocation behavior reveals the border between the habitat types “edge” and “open space”.


Echolocation Bats Vespertilio murinus Adaptive value of signal design Habitat types 



We thank Uwe Hoffmeister, Uwe Herrmanns, Alfred Benk, and others for assistance in the field; Theresa Cooke, Annette Denzinger, Jo Ostwald, and Peter Pilz for helpful comments; and the German Science Foundation (SFB 550) for its support. We also thank the known and unknown referees for helpful comments that improved the manuscript. This investigation was carried out with the permission of the local nature conservation departments of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Brandenburg.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tierphysiologie, Zoologisches InstitutUniversität TübingenTübingenGermany

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