Substrate-gleaning versus aerial-hawking: plasticity in the foraging and echolocation behaviour of the long-eared bat, Myotis evotis
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The foraging and echolocation behaviour of Myotis evotis was investigated during substrate-gleaning and aerial-hawking attacks. Bats gleaned moths from both the ground and a bark-covered trellis, however, they were equally adept at capturing flying moths. The calls emitted by M. evotis during substrate-gleaning sequences were short, broadband, and frequency-modulated (FM). Three behavioural phases were identified: search, hover, and attack. Gleaning search calls were significantly longer in duration, lower in highest frequency, and larger in bandwidth than hover/attack calls. Calls were detected in only 68% of gleaning sequences, and when they were emitted, bats ceased calling approximately 200 ms before attacking. Terminal feeding buzzes, the rapid increase in pulse repetition rate associated with an attempted prey capture, were never recorded during gleaning attacks. The echolocation calls uttered by M. evotis during aerial-hawking foraging sequences were also short duration, high frequency, FM calls. Two distinct acoustic phases were identified: approach and terminal. Approach calls were significantly different from terminal calls in all variables measured. Calls were detected in 100% of aerial-hawking attacks and terminal feeding buzzes were invariably produced. Gleaning hover/attack calls were spectrally similar to aerial approach calls, but were shorter in duration and emitted at a significantly lower (but constant) repetition rate than aerial signals. Although the foraging environment (flight cage contents) remained unchanged between tasks (substrate-gleaning vs. aerial-hawking), bats emitted significantly lower amplitude calls while gleaning. We conclude that M. evotis adjusts its echolocation behaviour to meet the perceptual demands (acoustical constraints) imposed by each foraging situation.
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