Gone Outdoors

How Do Bats Communicate?

by Contributing Writer

Introduction

Verbal and nonverbal communication is an essential element for all animals, whether it is used for mating purposes, for detecting dangerous situations, or for something as essential as gathering food. The animal kingdom has a wide variety of communication that varies from species to species, but studies have shown that bats may have the most complex and intricate form of communication aside from humans.

Sonar

Because of the blindness or near blindness that afflicts the species, bats rely on sonar or echolocation to detect the location of objects around them. Echolocation is the process by which bats emit sounds (usually at high frequencies undetectable to humans) and use the echoes from nearby objects to essentially "see" (through hearing) their surroundings. Echolocation is an important tool for survival, as it facilitates hunting for food, navigating territory and locating predators.

General Communication

But how do bats talk to each other? This can differ from bat to bat because there are many different species in the bat family. Typically, bats communicate through screeches, songs, and chirps emitted at high frequencies, usually too high for humans to hear. They do communicate at frequencies that CAN be detected by the human ear, thereby prompting research studies at universities and scientific institutions around the country and the world.

Types of Communication

For mating purposes, male bats tend to "sing" bat calls to attract females. They do this by emitting high frequency sounds, but the syllables of the call are longer and more soothing to the females. Some researchers suggest that these calls emulate the sounds made by baby bats as a way to attract females. When it comes to same-sex calls, however, the tones and calls are very different than the songs used for mating. Males marking their territory may use more aggressive and fiercer tones to keep other males away. Females also use different tones with each other than they would if they were communicating with males. The differences between male bat calls and female bat calls is distinct--not only can bats detect the sex of the animal emitting the noise, but humans can decipher it as well. Most bats, whether they are communicating to predators, potential mates, or to their young, have a distinct style all their own.

Conclusion

Researchers continue to study bat calls and discover more and more secrets to bat communication as time goes on, a reminder that bats are extremely complex beings and that we as humans can learn a lot more about them.

Photo Credits

  • http://sciencenotes.wordpress.com/2008/03/29/whats-killing-our-bats/