Bats jam each other’s signals just like humans jam cell phones


we’ve all fantasized about jamming in
annoying person’s cell phone. Mexican free-tailed bats have
figured out how to turn that dream into a reality. They jam each other’s bat
signals but not because they’re trying to turn
down the volume they’re just trying to steal each other’s meals. These bats hang out in colonies that can
number in the millions but living with so many relatives can
lead to conflict. When the colony swarms out to feed night
competition is fierce. To get an edge, the bats jam the sensory
equipment of nearby buddies then they can swoop in and steal the
meal for themselves. Echolocation is basically biological
sonar. First you emit a sound, then you listen
for an echo. Which tells you the position and speed
of things around you. And just like sonar, bats can all listen
in on the same channel at a frequency mostly above the range
of human hearing. This is the sound for free-tail bat getting closer and
closer to its target Often a flying insect. While still an orderly sound like a normal echolocation call, the audio pulses speed up because the bat needs to get
more information quickly as it nears its prey. Unfortunately this
“feeding buzz” also lets nearby hunting bats know that a
competitor is closing in on dinner. Using
triangulation Aaron Corcoran and William Conner were able to show that when nearby bats hear the buzz they swerve from their flight paths and
hone in on the hunting bat. As these interfering bats close in,
they actually try to disrupt the hunt by emitting a jamming call of their
own. These vocalizations swoop up and down like a siren–covering all the frequencies made in the feeding buzz. The jamming call causes the hunting bat to lose track of its prey and the jamming bat takes the opportunity to snap it up. We don’t know whether other types of
bats are using jamming to steal food from one another but now researchers know to look out for
this new adaptation in highly competitive feeding
environments.

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