What is it about?

Bats use echolocation sounds to “visualize” their environment and their food targets, such as insects, during foraging. This paper reports differences in the echolocation pulses emitted by individuals of Himalayan Leaf-nosed bats in populations within geographically different regions in China.

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Why is it important?

Many animal species, particularly birds, exhibit geographic variation in the sounds that they produce and use for social communication and territoriality. This variation can result from multiple sources, such as climatic changes, body size, genetic drift and other physical and biological factors. This paper is important because it tests the role of some of these factors in modifying echolocation sounds that are relatively stereotypic within a species. Acoustic parameters of sound pulses emitted for echolocation need to be constrained to accomplish neural computations relevant for echolocation. Since the neural organization and wiring of the brain is considered to be uniform within a particular species, it is important to discover the extent to which echolocation vocalizations can be modified and what are the sources of this variation.


Evolutionary and ecological adaptations are the hallmarks of survival of a species. Whereas morphological adaptations have been extensively studied and led to the development of Darwin’s theory of evolution, much less is known about acoustic adaptations for survival. Since bat’s are highly vocal and echolocation sounds are critical for their survival, a study of the species-specific geographic variation in the acoustic structure of these sounds provides an excellent opportunity to understand the neural vs. ecological tugs on adaptation via a control of acoustic behavior. Therefore, though a departure from my neuroscientific studies, this work, provided a unique and interesting opportunity to interact with international colleagues to gain a broader perspective on acoustic behavior in bats.

Professor Jagmeet S Kanwal
Georgetown University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Geographical variation in echolocation vocalizations of the Himalayan leaf-nosed bat: contribution of morphological variation and cultural drift, Oikos, September 2014, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/oik.01604.
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