Stabilization of perceived echo amplitudes in echolocating bats. II. The acoustic behavior of the big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus, when tracking moving prey

J Acoust Soc Am. 1992 Feb;91(2):1133-49. doi: 10.1121/1.402640.


Big brown bats, Eptesicus fuscus, can be trained to use echolocation to track a small microphone with a food reward attached when it is moved rapidly toward them. This situation mimics prey interception in the wild while allowing very precise recording of the sonar pulses emitted during tracking behavior. The results show that E. fuscus intensity compensates, reducing emitted intensity by 6 dB per halving of target range so that the intensity incident upon the target is constant and echo intensity increases by 6 dB per halving of range. This increase in echo intensity is effectively canceled by the reduction in auditory sensitivity due to automatic gain control (AGC) of 6 to 7 dB per halving of range. Intensity compensation behavior and AGC therefore form a dual-component, symmetrical system that stabilizes perceived echo amplitudes during target approach. The same system is present in the fishing bat, Noctilio leporinus, suggesting that it may be widespread in echolocating bats. Correlation analysis shows that, despite large changes in the duration of the pulses emitted by E. fuscus during an approach, the pulse frequency structure is such that the spatial image of the target perceived along the range axis is highly stable. Pulse duration is not reduced in the manner theoretically necessary to eliminate potential echo distortion effects due to AGC, but is reduced in such a way that this distortion is insignificant. During the terminal buzz, a high degree of temporal overlap (relative to pulse duration) occurs between emitted pulse and returning echo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology
  • Auditory Threshold / physiology
  • Biological Evolution
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Echolocation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Predatory Behavior / physiology*
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Sound Spectrography