To most, hearing bats screeching at each other sounds a lot like a bunch of kids learning how to play new instruments…and doing so very loudly. But to the trained researcher, a bat’s scream has much more to it and conveys more information than ever thought before.
A group of scientists from Tel Aviv University captured 22 Egyptian fruit bats and observed them visually and audibly over the course of two months to decipher what all the yelling was about.
Yossi Yovel, the lead researcher, said that the team “wanted to know how much information was actually conveyed” by the screeching and screaming.
Bats are known for their loud communication and up until now, many thought the screams were relatively simple in their meanings. However, the team’s research published in the journal Scientific Reports found that the calls are incredibly complex and unique to each bat.
Not only do calls specifically identify the bat being called, but it also identifies the caller. The calls were also used for different situations, mostly to signal aggression.
Bats are incredibly social creatures and use vocal expression to fight over everything from mating to food. By recording around 15,000 vocalizations, the researchers were able to discern what the bats were fighting about and identify dozens of unique calls.
Yovel and his team hope to continue studying the bat calls as a way to learn more about the evolution of animal communication and to understand if there is a recognition factor in their communications.
The bat study yielded incredible results and proved that their screeching may really be more than just a lot of loud noise.
Top photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife CC BY-ND 2.0
Lauren Leising is a science intern and a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.