Specializations for aerial hawking in the echolocation system of Molossus molossus (Molossidae, Chiroptera)

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2004 Jul;190(7):561-74. doi: 10.1007/s00359-004-0519-2. Epub 2004 Apr 27.


While searching for prey, Molossus molossus broadcasts narrow-band calls of 11.42 ms organized in pairs of pulses that alternate in frequency. The first signal of the pair is at 34.5 kHz, the second at 39.6 kHz. Pairs of calls with changing frequencies were only emitted when the interpulse intervals were below 200 ms. Maximum duty cycles during search phase are close to 20%. Frequency alternation of search calls is interpreted as a mechanism for increasing duty cycle and thus the temporal continuity of scanning, as well as increasing the detection range. A neurophysiological correlate for the processing of search calls was found in the inferior colliculus. 64% of neurons respond to frequencies in the 30- to 40-kHz range and only in this frequency range were closed tuning curves found for levels below 40 dB SPL. In addition, 15% of the neurons have double-tuned frequency-threshold curves with best thresholds at 34 and 39 kHz. Differing from observations in other bats, approach calls of M. molossus are longer and of higher frequencies than search calls. Close to the roost, the call frequency is increased to 45.0-49.8 kHz and, in addition, extremely broadband signals are emitted. This demonstrates high plasticity of call design.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Action Potentials / radiation effects
  • Animals
  • Chiroptera
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Echolocation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Homing Behavior / physiology
  • Homing Behavior / radiation effects
  • Inferior Colliculi / cytology*
  • Inferior Colliculi / physiology
  • Inferior Colliculi / radiation effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / radiation effects
  • Predatory Behavior / physiology
  • Predatory Behavior / radiation effects
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Sound Spectrography / methods
  • Time Factors
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*