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?

Species-specific sound pulses emitted for echolocation are relatively stereotypic to accomplish relevant neural computations within a highly specialized brain. This paper is important because it tests the role of genetic, morphologic and environmental factors in modifying acoustic parameters of intra-species echolocation pulses. It is important to discover if and the extent to which echolocation vocalizations can be modified across different populations despite the computational and neural constraints. The results suggest that neural tuning to acoustic parameters can be modified even within highly specialize brians.


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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