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Dublin: 5°C Monday 8 March 2021

Bats have accents, say scientists

It’s not just humans who speak in regionalised dialects, as Australian team discover local variations in bats too.

A vampire bat hangs out at the Philadelphia Zoo awaiting its lunch of blood
A vampire bat hangs out at the Philadelphia Zoo awaiting its lunch of blood
Image: AP Photo/Sabina Pierce

BATS CAN DEVELOP DIALECTS according to where they live, according to Australian scientists.

Brad Law, a researcher at the Forest Science Centre, found that bats living along the east coast of the Australian state of New South Wales had varying calls.

“Bats in different regions have different calls. You may have the same species on the north and the south coast but they’ll have different calls,” the Age quoted Laws as saying.

Scientists had long suspected that bats had regional calls, like other animals do, but this is the first to me it has been proven. The calls of about thirty bat species were used to develop a system to identify, observe and protect bats along the coast.

“We need to improve our ability to reliably distinguish between species that have commonly shared call features and we must increase the speed of call identification,” Law said in the latest edition of Forest NSW’s Bush Telegraph Magazine.

“The automation of bat call identification is seen as an essential development in the efficiency of this survey method and should ultimately fulfil both of these criteria.” (You can read the original article as a PDF here.)

Researchers took four thousand bat calls and made custom software to develop a means of identification for bat calls.

Bats use their calls to navigate and hunt using a process called echolocation in which high frequency ultrasounds  hit objects and echo back.

Although the identification was time-consuming, Law said it would lead to time and money savings in field surveys and possibly increase the accuracy rate and make long-term monitoring of bats cost-effective.

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