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 MACC1 Gene Is an Independent Prognostic Biomarker for Survival in Klatskin Tumor Patients
31.08.2015 | Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft

nachricht Fish Oil-Diet Benefits May be Mediated by Gut Microbes
28.08.2015 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: An engineered surface unsticks sticky water droplets

The leaves of the lotus flower, and other natural surfaces that repel water and dirt, have been the model for many types of engineered liquid-repelling surfaces. As slippery as these surfaces are, however, tiny water droplets still stick to them. Now, Penn State researchers have developed nano/micro-textured, highly slippery surfaces able to outperform these naturally inspired coatings, particularly when the water is a vapor or tiny droplets.

Enhancing the mobility of liquid droplets on rough surfaces could improve condensation heat transfer for power-plant heat exchangers, create more efficient...

Im Focus: Increasingly severe disturbances weaken world's temperate forests

Longer, more severe, and hotter droughts and a myriad of other threats, including diseases and more extensive and severe wildfires, are threatening to transform some of the world's temperate forests, a new study published in Science has found. Without informed management, some forests could convert to shrublands or grasslands within the coming decades.

"While we have been trying to manage for resilience of 20th century conditions, we realize now that we must prepare for transformations and attempt to ease...

Im Focus: OU astrophysicist and collaborators find supermassive black holes in quasar nearest Earth

A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...

Im Focus: What would a tsunami in the Mediterranean look like?

A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...

Im Focus: Self-healing landscape: landslides after earthquake

In mountainous regions earthquakes often cause strong landslides, which can be exacerbated by heavy rain. However, after an initial increase, the frequency of these mass wasting events, often enormous and dangerous, declines, in fact independently of meteorological events and aftershocks.

These new findings are presented by a German-Franco-Japanese team of geoscientists in the current issue of the journal Geology, under the lead of the GFZ...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Networking conference in Heidelberg for outstanding mathematicians and computer scientists

20.08.2015 | Event News

Scientists meet in Münster for the world’s largest Chitin und Chitosan Conference

20.08.2015 | Event News

Large agribusiness management strategies

19.08.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Siemens sells 18 industrial gas turbines to Thailand

01.09.2015 | Press release

An engineered surface unsticks sticky water droplets

01.09.2015 | Materials Sciences

New material science research may advance tech tools

01.09.2015 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>