Free-tailed bats are smarter than scientists previously believed. A new animal study reveals that these Mexican bats can jam the echolocation sounds made by other bats in order to distract them from food. The bats create unique sounds for confusing the other bats and divert them from any source of food they might come upon. This cunning technique is used by the free-tailed bats whenever they feel they have competitors over a food source.
In order to locate their food, bats use something called echolocation, which helps them find their prey in total darkness. The new study reveals that bats can jam each other’s sonar until one of the bats wins.
One of the researchers involved in the new study, Aaron Corcoran from the University of Maryland said of the free-tailed bats that:
“This is the first study to show that bats actively jam the echolocation of other bats, and it increases the number of known functions of bat sounds to three: echolocation, communication, and acoustic interference”.
The new study was done at the Arizona Southwestern Research Station and in the parking lot of a high school in Animas, Mexico. The scientist used very sensitive cameras and special ultrasonic microphones to record in real time the way free-tailed bats compete with each other. The microphone allowed the researchers to recreate the bats’ flight paths.
The study revealed that some of the bats couldn’t catch their prey when other bats interfered with their echolocation sounds. In a different experiment, the researchers attracted wild bats with moths suspended from fishing lines. While the bats tried to catch the moths, the researchers were playing ultrasonic sounds from some speakers.
Apparently the bats couldn’t catch their prey when the sounds were played because it interfered with their own echolocation sounds. Another one of the researchers involved in the study. William Conner, said that they do not know yet if the free-tailed bats are the only bat species to use this jamming method.
The new study sheds some light on how animals compete with other animals for food. Professor Kate Jones from the University College London stated that there are many more things to find out about how bats interact with each other.