In Bat Battles, Rivals Jam Each Other's Sonar

Study identifies technique for first time in Mexican free-tailed bats
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2014 2:33 PM CST
In Bat Battles, Rivals Jam Each Other's Sonar
File photo of a Mexican free-tailed bat.   (AP Photo/Loyola University of New Orleans, Craig S. Hood)

Bats don't mess around when it comes to food fights—they can prevent rivals from snagging prey by emitting a noise that essentially jams the other bat's sonar. One researcher discovered the tactic for the first time among the Mexican free-tailed bat, which, like all bats, uses "echolocation" to find its food, reports National Geographic. The University of Maryland scientist was studying how a species of moth jammed the sonar of the big brown bat with ultrasonic clicks when he noticed that calls coming from Mexican free-tailed bats nearby were similar. He reviewed hours of audio to confirm the discovery.

Researchers found that if they played one of 15 different calls from the free-tailed bat when another bat was emitting a "feeding buzz"—the noise that follows frequent echolocation pings as a bat closes in on prey—the hunter bat was up to 86% less likely to snatch up the meal, Smithsonian reports. "They get into amazing aerial dogfights," one researcher tells LiveScience. "One will jam the other, and the other will jam back." The new findings are laid out in Science. (Too bad sonar can't help bats avoid this killing machine.)

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