The Secret Language of Bats

July 25, 2017 Posted by: Stephanie Root
Crop pests: eaten. Rare plants: pollinated, seeds dispersed. Hopefully by now most of us know the ecological and economic benefits that bats bring to the table. Not the rabid, blood suckers as they’ve been portrayed in the past. Did you know, though, that each bat species speaks a “language” that humans cannot hear? And that some bats can communicate with each other and recognize each other by sound – much like humans do?

When bats echolocate, they are bouncing sounds off of objects, such as obstacles, prey, and other bats. It helps them maneuver. It helps them recognize when and where to stay out of the way. Some bats, as it turns out, also lend their voices as a tool to communicate with each other.

If it were translated to English, an example conversation would be similar to this: “Hey, it’s Mike.” “Hey Mike! This is Bob.” Most social bat communication is recognizing the individual by sound, much like we can recognize the people we know by their voice. It’s the bats way of letting others know who’s around.

Bats are really loud. They can emit calls as low as 50 decibels and as high as 140 decibels! For reference, a thunderclap is 120 decibels! The bats with louder, more intense calls tend to be the same species that echolocate at higher frequencies.  Higher frequency sounds do not travel as far as lower frequency sounds, so in theory, higher frequency bats are emitting louder noises to compensate.  Thankfully, their calls are at such a high frequency, we can’t hear them.


A Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis)
A Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis). This species is one of the most common visitors to Cabrillo National Monument. (Photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer)

Bats are not the only terrestrial animals that echolocate in Cabrillo National Monument. Stay tuned to find out about another small, fuzzy creature that uses this feature!

References
What can bats teach us about human language, diseases, and tequila:
https://blogs.biomedcentral.com/bmcseriesblog/2016/04/15/can-bats-teach-us-human-language-diseases-tequila/

Why Bats Matter
http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/why_bats_matter.html

How do bats echolocate and how are they adapted to this activity?
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-do-bats-echolocate-an/

Roaring bats: New Scientific Results Show Bats Emitting More Decibels Than A Rock Concert
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080429204244.htm
 

Bats, Natural history, Science




2 Comments Comments icon

  1. Dan
    July 27, 2017 at 01:20
     

    According to Ranger Stephanie, We have observed 11 species of bats in Point Loma, of the 22 that are known in San Diego county! In no particular order: Mexican free-tailed bat Big brown bat Big free-tailed bat Pocketed free-tailed bat Yuma myotis California myotis Western mastiff bat Western canyon bat Yellow bat Red bat Hoary bat

     
  2. Andrea
    July 27, 2017 at 10:41
     

    I have heard that there are quite a few bats at Cabrillo National Monument. How many different species do you have?

     
 
Leave this field empty
Required information

Post A Comment

Last updated: July 25, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive
San Diego, CA 92106

Phone:

(619) 557-5450

Contact Us