Research Summary: Information Generated by the Moving Pinnae of Rhinolophus rouxi: Tuning of the Morphology at Different Harmonics


Bats typically emit multi harmonic calls. Their head morphology shapes the emission and hearing sound fields as a function of frequency. Therefore, the sound fields are markedly different for the various harmonics. As the sound field provides bats with all necessary cues to locate objects in space, different harmonics might provide them with variable amounts of information about the location of objects. Also, the ability to locate objects in different parts of the frontal hemisphere might vary across harmonics. This paper evaluates this hypothesis in R. rouxi, using an information theoretic framework. We estimate the reflector position information transfer in the echolocation system of R. rouxi as a function of frequency. This analysis shows that localization performance reaches a global minimum and a global maximum at the two most energetic frequency components of R. rouxi call indicating tuning of morphology and harmonic structure. Using the fundamental the bat is able to locate objects in a large portion of the frontal hemisphere. In contrast, using the 1 overtone, it can only locate objects, albeit with a slightly higher accuracy, in a small portion of the frontal hemisphere by reducing sensitivity to echoes from outside this region of interest. Hence, different harmonic components provide the bat either with a wide view or a focused view of its environment. We propose these findings can be interpreted in the context of the foraging behaviour of R. rouxi, i.e., hunting in cluttered environments. Indeed, the focused view provided by the 1 overtone suggests that at this frequency its morphology is tuned for clutter rejection and accurate localization in a small region of interest while the finding that overall localization performance is best at the fundamental indicates that the morphology is simultaneously tuned to optimize overall localization performance at this frequency.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 17-June-2011

Author(s): Vanderelst D., Reijniers J., Steckel J., Peremans H.


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