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Linnenschmidt, Meike; Wiegrebe, Lutz ORCID: 0000-0002-9289-6187 (2016): Sonar beam dynamics in leaf-nosed bats. In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 6, 29222


Ultrasonic emissions of bats are directional and delimit the echo-acoustic space. Directionality is quantified by the aperture of the sonar beam. Recent work has shown that bats often widen their sonar beam when approaching movable prey or sharpen their sonar beam when navigating through cluttered habitats. Here we report how nose-emitting bats, Phyllostomus discolor, adjust their sonar beam to object distance. First, we show that the height and width of the bats sonar beam, as imprinted on a parabolic 45 channel microphone array, varies even within each animal and this variation is unrelated to changes in call level or spectral content. Second, we show that these animals are able to systematically decrease height and width of their sonar beam while focusing on the approaching object. Thus it appears that sonar beam sharpening is a further, facultative means of reducing search volume, likely to be employed by stationary animals when the object position is close and unambiguous. As only half of our individuals sharpened their beam onto the approaching object we suggest that this strategy is facultative, under voluntary control, and that beam formation is likely mediated by muscular control of the acoustic aperture of the bats' nose leaf.