Comparison of properties of cortical echo delay-tuning in the short-tailed fruit bat and the mustached bat

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2011 May;197(5):605-13. doi: 10.1007/s00359-010-0530-8. Epub 2010 May 6.


Target-distance computation by cortical neurons sensitive to echo delay is an essential characteristic of the auditory system of insectivorous bats. To assess if functional requirements such as detection of small insects versus larger stationary surfaces of plants are reflected in cortical properties, we compare delay-tuned neurons in a frugivorous (C. perspicillata, CP) and an insectivorous (P. parnellii, PP) bat species that belong to related families within the superfamily of Noctilionoidea. The bandwidth and shape of delay-tuning curves and the range of characteristic delays are similar in both species and hence are not related to different echolocation strategies. Most units respond at 2-6 ms echo delay with most sensitive thresholds of 20-30 dB SPL. In CP, units tuned to delays >12 ms are slightly more abundant and are more sensitive than in PP. All delay-tuned neurons in CP reliably respond to single pure-tone stimuli, whereas such responses are only observed in 49% of delay-tuned units in PP. The cortical representation of echo delay (chronotopy) covers a larger area in CP but is less precise than described in PP. Since chronotopy is absent in certain other insectivorous bat species, it is open if these differences in topography are related to echolocation behaviour.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Echolocation / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology
  • Species Specificity
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*