Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 12–23 | Cite as

Fruit detection and discrimination by small fruit-eating bats (Phyllostomidae): echolocation call design and olfaction

  • Carmi Korine
  • Elisabeth K. V. Kalko
Original Article


We studied the role of echolocation and other sensory cues in two small frugivorous New World leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae: Artibeus watsoni and Vampyressa pusilla) feeding on different types of fig fruit. To test which cues the bats need to find these fruit, we conducted behavioral experiments in a flight cage with ripe and similar-sized figs where we selectively excluded vision, olfaction, and echolocation cues from the bats. In another series of experiments, we tested the discrimination abilities of the bats and presented sets of fruits that differed in ripeness (ripe, unripe), size (small, large), and quality (intact(infested with caterpillars). We monitored the bats' foraging and echolocation behavior simultaneously. In flight, both bat species continuously emitted short (<2 ms), multi-harmonic, and steep frequency-modulated (FM) calls of high frequencies, large bandwidth, and very low amplitude. Foraging behavior of bats was composed of two distinct stages: search or orienting flight followed by approach behavior consisting of exploration flights, multiple approaches of a selected fruit, and final acquisition of ripe figs in flight or in a brief landing. Both bat species continuously emitted echolocation calls. Structure and pattern of signals changed predictably when the bats switched from search or orienting calls to approach calls. We did not record a terminal phase before final acquisition of a fruit, as it is typical for aerial insectivorous bats prior to capture. Both bat species selected ripe over unripe fruit and non-infested over infested fruit. Artibeus watsoni preferred larger over smaller fruit. We conclude from our experiments, that the bats used a combination of odor-guided detection together with echolocation for localization in order to find ripe fruit and to discriminate among them.


Artibeus Vampyressa Ficus Foraging Sensory cues 



We thank three anonymous referees for their valuable comments. This work was supported by a MINERVA postdoctoral fellowship to Korine, by a NATO postdoctoral fellowship to Kalko, and by grants of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) to Schnitzler and Kalko. We thank the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama for providing the facilities and permits. In particular, we wish to thank Charles O. Handley Jr (formerly NMNH) who gave us invaluable insights into the fascinating world of Neotropical bats


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carmi Korine
    • 1
    • 2
  • Elisabeth K. V. Kalko
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboaPanama
  2. 2.Mitrani Department of Desert EcologyBlaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the NegevMidreshet Ben-GurionIsrael
  3. 3.Department of Experimental Ecology (Bio III)University of UlmUlmGermany

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