The relationships between echolocation calls, morphology and diet in insectivorous bats

Authors

  • W. Bogdanowicz,

    Corresponding author
    1. Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Wilcza 64, P.O. Box 1007, 00-679 Warszawa, Poland
      All correspondence to: Dr W. Bogdanowicz, Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Wilcza 64, P.O. Box 1007, 00-679 Warszawa, Poland. E-mail: wieslawb@robal.miiz.waw.pl
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  • M. B. Fenton,

    1. Department of Biology, York University, North York, Ontario, Canada M3J 1P3
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  • K. Daleszczyk

    1. Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, 17–230 Białowieża, Poland
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All correspondence to: Dr W. Bogdanowicz, Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Wilcza 64, P.O. Box 1007, 00-679 Warszawa, Poland. E-mail: wieslawb@robal.miiz.waw.pl

Abstract

In this study we explored quantitatively the relationships between the size of bats, the frequencies in their echolocation calls, and the incidence of moths and beetles in their diets. We focused on the predictions of the allotonic frequency hypothesis which states that some insectivorous bats increase their access to moths that can hear echolocation calls by shifting to frequencies to which the ears of these insects are less sensitive. The hypothesis predicts that the frequencies dominating the echolocation calls of bats may be correlated with the incidence of moths in their diets. We collected data for 62 species of bats that take airborne prey, usually flying insects, 25 species of high duty cycle echolocating bats (Rhinolophidae and Hipposideridae) and 37 species that are low duty cycle echolocators (Vespertilionidae and Molossidae). For bats whose echolocation calls are dominated by frequencies < 100 kHz our regression analyses showed a parabolic dependency between moth consumption (% volume or % frequency) and echolocation call frequency (kHz), supporting the allotonic frequency hypothesis. The use of echolocation calls dominated by frequencies outside the range of best hearing by moths may indeed increase the availability of these insects to the bats. However, when the same analysis was performed with only the bat species using echolocation calls dominated by sounds > 100 kHz, the relationship was not statistically significant, suggesting that morphological characteristics rather than echolocation call frequency may limit the range of potential prey items. Our analyses also demonstrate the importance of jaw morphology as a predictor of the incidence of beetles or moths in the diets of bats, and reveal that generally bigger species (as defined by forearm length) use echolocation calls dominated by lower frequencies than smaller species. In both high duty and low duty cycle echolocating bats the relationship between body size and dominant call frequency was best described by a linear model. We also propose that perch hunting was central in the development of the high duty cycle approach to echolocation.

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