By Virginia Morell, ScienceNOW Daily News:
Baby Bats Imitate Dad’s Songs
7 October 2009
A few years ago, researchers discovered that the babies of at least one species of bat make babbling sounds, much like human infants. Now, it turns out those babbling baby bats aren’t just mindlessly cooing–they’re imitating the songs of the big guys in their colonies: adult males with territories and harems. Such vocal imitation is rare in the animal kingdom, and it has never been found in nonhuman primates. The discovery should open a new window on the evolution of speech and language, scientists say.
Scientists define complex vocal imitation as the ability to learn a call or song from a tutor–and they regard this talent as a key innovation in the evolution of speech. The rarified list of complex vocal imitators includes birds, elephants, cetaceans, seals, and humans. Researchers had long predicted that bats might also be capable of such imitation because of their extraordinary vocal flexibility; they use echolocation calls to navigate the physical world, for example, and social calls to communicate with their fellow bats.
These insectivorous Costa Rican bats live in harems of one male and as many as eight females, each of which can have one pup annually. The males defend small territories in their day-roosts with unique multiple-syllabic songs. Adult females don’t sing, but their pups (males and females) do plenty of babbling. During such “babbling bouts,” the pups often sing nearly complete renditions of the territorial songs, Knörnschild says, albeit shakier renditions. But were the pups simply combining fragments or actually listening and imitating their complete songs?
The new research report is here.
Oral sex is surprisingly rare in the animal kingdom. Humans do it, of course. As do bonobos, our close relatives. But now researchers have observed the practice for the first time in a non-primate. During intercourse, female short-nosed fruit bats lick the genitals of their partner, a possible ploy to increase copulation time. The discovery suggests there may be a biological advantage to fellatio: here.
Isle of Wight is the most important area for woodland bats in Europe: here.
In a study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, researchers adjusted animals sounds for body size and metabolic rate and found a surprising similarity of normalized calls throughout the animal kingdom. Karen Hopkin reports: here.
ScienceDaily (Jan. 25, 2010) — Only some bats and toothed whales rely on sophisticated echolocation, in which they emit sonar pulses and process returning echoes, to detect and track down small prey. Now, two new studies in the January 26th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, show that bats’ and whales’ remarkable ability and the high-frequency hearing it depends on are shared at a much deeper level than anyone would have anticipated — all the way down to the molecular level: here.
Tropical bats of Central and South America regularly eat fermenting fruits and nectar. But they can fly and use their built-in “sonar” just as well while inebriated as while sober—even with blood-alcohol contents that would exceed legal limits for people: here.