Royal Society Publishing

Abstract

Animals using active sensing systems such as echolocation or electrolocation may experience interference from the signals of neighbouring conspecifics, which can be offset by a jamming avoidance response (JAR). Here, we report JAR in one echolocating bat (Tadarida teniotis: Molossidae) but not in another (Taphozous perforatus: Emballonuridae) when both flew and foraged with conspecifics. In T. teniotis, JAR consisted of shifts in the dominant frequencies of echolocation calls, enhancing differences among individuals. Larger spectral overlap of signals elicited stronger JAR. Tadarida teniotis showed two types of JAR: (i) for distant conspecifics: a symmetric JAR, with lower– and higher–frequency bats shifting their frequencies downwards and upwards, respectively, on average by the same amount; and (ii) for closer conspecifics: an asymmetric JAR, with only the upper–frequency bat shifting its frequency upwards. In comparison, ‘wave–type’ weakly electric fishes also shift frequencies of discharges in a JAR, but unlike T. teniotis, the shifts are either symmetric in some species or asymmetric in others. We hypothesize that symmetric JAR in T. teniotis serves to avoid jamming and improve echolocation, whereas asymmetric JAR may aid communication by helping to identify and locate conspecifics, thus minimizing chances of mid–air collisions.

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