Bats can locate their prey using echolocation without confusion even when immersed in a thick swarm of many hundreds of other bats, and now researchers have discovered the secret. The winged mammals raise the pitch of their echolocation calls to make them stand out against “jamming signals”.
The finding helps explain how hundreds of bats can hunt in the same area without getting confused by others’ calls, and could perhaps inform the design of better radar systems for aircraft.
Bats use the echo pattern of their voice to locate insects and other prey – so confusing echoes can cost them dinner. A new study reveals that the flying mammals use a wide range of pitches and simply raise the pitch of their echolocation calls to stand out against other bat calls at the same frequency.
Erin Gillam of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, US, and colleagues conducted experiments on Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) in the wild.