Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Listening for Love: A role for echolocation in mate choice?

31.07.2014

In a novel integrative study led by Dr. Sébastien Puechmaille, University of Greifswald, Germany, Prof. Emma Teeling, University College Dublin, Ireland and PD Dr. Björn Siemers, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany to be published in PLOS ONE, the researchers tested the role of echolocation in mate choice.

They showed for the first time that bats are indeed ‘listening’ for a good mate rather than ‘looking for one’. Combining ecology, genetics and behavioural experiments of wild bats, this study showed that female Rhinolophus mehelyi horseshoe bats are using echolocation to choose a mate.


© S.J. Puechmaille.

The bat species Hipposideros pomona is one of the many bat species echolocating at high frequency (140 kHz), well above the human hearing range (20 kHz).

Probably the most important decision in any animal’s life, including our own, is finding the best mate! If you make the wrong decision then this can have repercussions for generations. Your choice of mate enables the transfer and continuation of your genes and indeed can drive the evolution of a species.

For humans, typically the first things that attracts you to a potential mate are visual cues, how well or attractive a person looks. ‘Good-looks’ have shown to be correlated with ‘good-genes’ or better fitness, so this makes sense. Well imagine having to find a mate in total darkness? This is the ultimate challenge that bats face.

Of all mammal species, bats are the hearing specialists. They use echolocation or sonar, to orient and detect prey in complete darkness, relying on the echo of their ultrasound calls to develop an acoustic image of their environment. Bat echolocation is considered to be one of the most fascinating yet least well understood modes of sensory perception.

Unlike bird song, the primary role of echolocation in bats is for orientation and finding food in complete darkness. Little is known about its use in communication and mate choice. Indeed, only in the past decade has it been suggested that echolocation calls can actually encode information on sex, body size, age and its role in mate choice has never been tested.

To test this hypothesis, the researchers have designed a suite of experiments and analyses on a wild population of Rhinolophus mehelyi near Tabachka research station in Bulgaria. The results of the experiments were pretty clear. The higher the frequency of the male’s call the more attractive the male is to the females. The higher the frequency of the male’s call the more, off-spring he will sire. Indeed, the male’s echolocation call seems to act like a ‘peacock’s tail’, the higher the frequency the more attractive the call.

However, despite this sexual advantage, these higher frequency calls are considered to be less efficient for foraging, and ultimately are an ‘attractive’ handicap. The male might ‘sound’ better to females but he can’t hunt as optimal-ly. It appears that the female’s preference for males with higher echolocation call frequency may explain why this species echolocates at 30 kHz higher than expected, something that has puzzled scientists until now. This evolutionary ‘trade-off’ between efficiency and attractiveness moulds and constrains bat echolocation.

This study is the first to show the role of echolocation in mate choice and will become a reference for future studies. Its power comes from the integration of three different types of data, ecological, behavioural and genetics. These results highlight bats as a novel system in which to explore the role of sound in mate choice and the potential conflict between natural and sexual selection on specific traits in evolution.

This paper has just been published with Open Access in PLOS ONE (http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0103452) on the 30th July 2014. [Female mate choice can drive the evolution of high frequency echolocation in bats: a case study with Rhinolophus mehelyi DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103452]. It represents an Irish-German driven project, funded by an IRCSET-Marie Curie International Mobility Fellowships in Science, Engineering and Technology awarded to S.J. Puechmaille. 

Contact details of authors for correspondence

First author
Dr. Sébastien Puechmaille
Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-University of Greifswald
Zoology Institute
Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Str. 11/12
17489 Greifswald, GERMANY
Phone +49 3834 86-4068
s.puechmaille@gmail.com

Senior author
Prof. Emma Teeling
School of Biology and Environmental Science
University College Dublin, IRELAND
Phone +35 31 7162263
emma.teeling@ucd.ie

Jan Meßerschmidt | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Environmental Rhinolophus mehelyi acoustic bats genes mammal species

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht For a chimpanzee, one good turn deserves another
27.06.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)

nachricht New method to rapidly map the 'social networks' of proteins
27.06.2017 | Salk Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>