Morphological, olfactory, and vocal development in big brown bats Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • ABSTRACT Using a within subjects design, we documented morphological, bioacoustical and behavioral developmental changes in big brown bats. Eptesicus fuscus pups are born naked and blind but assume an adult-like appearance by post-natal day (PND) 45 and flight by PND 30. Adult females use spatial memory, acoustic and olfactory cues to reunite with offspring, but it is unclear if pups can recognize maternal scents. We tested the olfactory discrimination abilities of young E. fuscus pups and found they exhibited no odor preferences. Pups also emit distinct vocalizations called isolation calls (i-calls) that facilitate mother-offspring reunions, but how pups shift their vocalizations from i-calls to downward frequency modulated (FM) sweeps used in echolocation remains unclear. Between PND 0–9, pups emitted mainly long duration, tonal i-calls rich in harmonics, but after they switched to short duration, downward FM sweeps with fewer harmonics. Call maximum frequency and repetition rate showed minor changes across development. Signal duration, bandwidth, and number of harmonics decreased, whereas the maximum, minimum and bandwidth of the fundamental, and peak spectral frequency all increased. We recorded vocalizations during prolonged maternal separation and found that isolated pups called longer and at a faster rate, presumably to signal for maternal assistance. To assess how PND 13 pups alter their signals during interactions with humans we compared spontaneous and provoked vocalizations and found that provoked calls were spectrally and temporally more similar to those of younger bats suggesting that pups in distress emit signals that sound like younger bats to promote maternal assistance.

publication date

  • January 15, 2015