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Journal of Experimental Biology partnership with Dryad

Hearing and hunting in red bats (Lasiurus borealis, Vespertilionidae): audiogram and ear properties.
M K Obrist, J J Wenstrup


We examined aspects of hearing in the red bat (Lasiurus borealis) related to its use of biosonar. Evoked potential audiograms, obtained from volume-conducted auditory brainstem responses, were obtained in two bats, and the sound pressure transformation of the pinna was measured in three specimens. Field-recorded echolocation signals were analysed for comparison. The fundamental sonar search calls sweep from 45 to 30 kHz (peak energy at 35 kHz), approach-phase calls sweep from 65 to 35 kHz (peak 40 kHz) and terminal calls sweep from 70 to 30 kHz (peak 45 kHz). The most sensitive region of the audiogram extended from 10 kHz to 45-55 kHz, with maximum sensitivity as low as 20 dB SPL occurring between 25 and 30 kHz. A relative threshold minimum occurred between 40 and 50 kHz. With increasing frequency, the acoustic axis of the pinna moves upwards and medially. The sound pressure transformation was noteworthy near 40-45 kHz; the acoustic axis was closest to the midline, the -3 dB acceptance angles showed local minima, and the pinna gain and interaural intensity difference were maximal. These results are related to the known echolocation and foraging behavior of this species and match the spectral components of approach- and final-phase calls. We conclude that co-evolution with hearing prey has put a higher selective pressure on optimizing localization and tracking of prey than on improving detection performance.