Behavioural evidence for the perception of individual identity and gender via the echolocation calls of a high duty cycle bat, Rhinolophus clivosus

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Different cognitive processes underlie the perception of vocalizations in many mammals, including humans. This perception now extends to a highly specialized form of sonar called echolocation. In habituation-dishabituation experiments, a high duty cycle echolocating bat, Rhinolophus clivosus, dishabituated significantly when echolocation calls of a different gender or individual were played to the habituation. Strong individual and gender signatures but weak geographic signatures were found in both the CF and FM components of their echolocation calls. In the individual discrimination trials reactions were more pronounced to an individual that was less acoustically similar to the habituation than to one that was more similar. Bats reacted to playbacks with a variety of social behaviours. Prior to the analysis of the experiment an ethogram was done on three groups of captive R. clivosus bats. This ethogram was used to categorize the behavioural responses of these bats to the acoustic stimuli in the experiments. The reactions to the habituation-dishabituation experiments show bats perceive gender and individual-specific signatures found in their conspecifics echolocation calls. This is the first study to show behavioural evidence for individual discrimination and second to show gender discrimination of echolocation calls in high duty cycle bats. This evidence supports the theory that echolocation, a system thought to have evolved solely for orientation and foraging, has been coopted for intra-specific communication and mate recognition in bats.