Everyday bat vocalizations contain information about emitter, addressee, context, and behavior

Yosef Prat
Mor Taub
Yossi Yovel


Animal vocal communication is often diverse and structured. Yet, the information concealed in animal vocalizations remains elusive. Several studies have shown that animal calls convey information about their emitter and the context. Often, these studies focus on specific types of calls, as it is rarely possible to probe an entire vocal repertoire at once. In this study, we continuously monitored Egyptian fruit bats for months, recording audio and video around-the-clock. We analyzed almost 15,000 vocalizations, which accompanied the everyday interactions of the bats, and were all directed toward specific individuals, rather than broadcast. We found that bat vocalizations carry ample information about the identity of the emitter, the context of the call, the behavioral response to the call, and even the call’s addressee. Our results underline the importance of studying the mundane, pairwise, directed, vocal interactions of animals.