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Bat Vocal Learning

November 6, 2017

Fruit bats learn their calls from the crowd of bats around them.



Learning bat calls. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(angry bat calls)

Fruit bats live in colonies of hundreds or thousands, each bat jostling for position in the roost. So it’s not surprising that most of the calls they make toward each other are aggressive. Now, researchers report in PLOS Biology that despite clinging to their mothers, young bats learn to make these aggressive calls in the dialect of the cacophonous colony around them, rather than just mimicking the call their mother makes.

(single angry call)

Tel Aviv University biologist Yossi Yovel explains.

YOSSI YOVEL (Tel Aviv University):

So  we call this crowd vocal learning so actually, in our case the mothers probably influenced the pups less than the backgrounds.


Yovel says this is a case of crowded living conditions influencing how the bats learn. He suspects other animals that roost in big colonies may learn learn their vocalizations in a similar way. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard