Prey recognition and selection by the constant frequency bat, Pteronotus p. parnellii


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Publication Date

December 1977


In the laboratory the neotropical bat, Pteronotus p. parnellii of Jamaica W.I., will readily capture free flying and tethered insects. It will also attack a stationary mechanical insect model when its wing-like parts are rapidly moving. On the basis of our observations we conclude that: (1) P. parnellii are attracted to flying insects and recognition of these rather than background objects is dependent on insect wing movements. Insects which are not beating wings are relatively immune from predation. (2) The frequency of the wingbeats of the insects is important in prey recognition. P. parnellii are not attracted to insects or to mechanical models of insects when the wing movements are slow. (3) These bats are selective in the acquisition of their prey and not simply opportunistic. They ignore or reject lampyrid beetles, arctiid and ctenuchid moths and the geometrid moth, Thyrinteina arnobia. They consume a variety of other Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, and insects from other orders. Their prey consists of both large and small insects. (4) In spite of the emission of intense sonar pulses with a constant frequency component of long duration, they can effectively hunt their prey in relatively confined spaces. They can chase their prey among simple arrays of obstacles and they can pursue insects to within several centimeters of large obstacles. (5) Evidence supports the hypothesis that the basis for insect wingbeat detection is the rapid and repetitive pattern of Doppler-shifts which the beating wings impose on the echoes of the constant frequency component of the bat's pulses.


Pteronotus P. Parnellii, Jamaica, Thyrinteina Arnobia, Wingbeats, Doppler-Shifts, P. Parnellii

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Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Vol. 2, no. 4 (1977-12).