Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 190, Issue 3, pp 185–192 | Cite as

Auditory sensitivity and frequency selectivity in greater spear-nosed bats suggest specializations for acoustic communication

  • K. M. Bohn
  • J. W. Boughman
  • G. S. Wilkinson
  • C. F. Moss
Original Paper


We investigated the relationship between auditory sensitivity, frequency selectivity, and the vocal repertoire of greater spear-nosed bats (Phyllostomus hastatus). P. hastatus commonly emit three types of vocalizations: group-specific foraging calls that range from 6 to 11 kHz, low amplitude echolocation calls that sweep from 80 to 40 kHz, and infant isolation calls from 15 to 100 kHz. To determine if hearing in P. hastatus is differentially sensitive or selective to frequencies in these calls, we determined absolute thresholds and masked thresholds using an operant conditioning procedure. Both absolute and masked thresholds were lowest at 15 kHz, which corresponds with the peak energy of isolation calls. Auditory and masked thresholds were higher at sound frequencies used for group-specific foraging calls and echolocation calls. Isolation calls meet the requirements of individual signatures and facilitate parent-offspring recognition. Many bat species produce isolation calls with peak energy between 10 and 25 kHz, which corresponds with the frequency region of highest sensitivity in those species for which audiogram data are available. These findings suggest that selection for accurate offspring recognition exerts a strong influence on the sensory system of P. hastatus and likely on other species of group-living bats.


Chiroptera Frequency discrimination Hearing Recognition signals Social communication 



This research was supported by a Center for Neuroscience grant from the University of Maryland, Small Populations Program (NSF) fellowship and NIMH Institutional NRSA in Neuroethology awarded to K.M. Bohn (T32-MH20048). Special thanks to Manjit Sahota, Rose Young in the “Bat Lab” at the University of Maryland for their assistance. All animal care and methods complied with the Principles of Animal Care of the National Institutes of Health and was approved by the Animal Care and Use Committee at the University of Maryland.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. M. Bohn
    • 1
  • J. W. Boughman
    • 3
  • G. S. Wilkinson
    • 1
  • C. F. Moss
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of MarylandUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Institute for Systems ResearchUniversity of MarylandUSA
  3. 3.Zoology DepartmentUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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