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Lattenkamp, Ella Z.; Linnenschmidt, Meike; Mardus, Eva; Vernes, Sonja C.; Wiegrebe, Lutz and Schutte, Michael (2021): The vocal development of the pale spear-nosed bat is dependent on auditory feedback. In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, Vol. 376, No. 1836, 20200253

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Human vocal development and speech learning require acoustic feedback, and humans who are born deaf do not acquire a normal adult speech capacity. Most other mammals display a largely innate vocal repertoire. Like humans, bats are thought to be one of the few taxa capable of vocal learning as they can acquire new vocalizations by modifying vocalizations according to auditory experiences. We investigated the effect of acoustic deafening on the vocal development of the pale spear-nosed bat. Three juvenile pale spear-nosed bats were deafened, and their vocal development was studied in comparison with an age-matched, hearing control group. The results show that during development the deafened bats increased their vocal activity, and their vocalizations were substantially altered, being much shorter, higher in pitch, and more aperiodic than the vocalizations of the control animals. The pale spear-nosed bat relies on auditory feedback for vocal development and, in the absence of auditory input, species-atypical vocalizations are acquired. This work serves as a basis for further research using the pale spear-nosed bat as a mammalian model for vocal learning, and contributes to comparative studies on hearing impairment across species. This article is part of the theme issue 'Vocal learning in animals and humans'.

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