Best romantic singers are male bats

July 19, 2013

Male bats appear to be the sexy singers of the animal world: they have learned to vocalize in a specific way to attract females, but once they have their attention, they change their tune – literally. They then produce a more creative array of sounds to entertain and keep the females interested, according to new research conducted at Texas A&M University.

Mike Smotherman, associate professor of biology and one of the country's leading authorities on bat behavior, and colleagues from Florida International University led the study on bat singing and their work is published in Animal Behaviour.

Over a three-year period, the team made recordings of thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats in and around the Texas A&M campus and found that male bats are truly crooners. They produce songs aimed at attracting females to their roosts during mating season, and they must do so quickly because bats tend to fly by in a hurry.

"These bats can fly very fast, almost 30 feet per second," explains Smotherman. "They only have about one-tenth of a second to get the females' attention.

"We learned that they use a very specific song to grab the female's attention as she flies by the roost. Once a bat joins their roost, the males mix up their songs, possibly to keep the entertained long enough for mating to begin."

The bat's romantic song is built from syllables and phrases. The free-tailed bats are unique because they can quickly reorganize their phrases to create different singing styles, Smotherman says.

"The males can be very creative in their singing," he adds.

Bats aren't the only type of animal to use such love songs, Smotherman notes. The free-tailed bat's singing is very similar to some of the most talented songbirds. Among mammals however, singing is rare, he notes.

"Most other animals rely upon visual cues to attract a mate, such as birds having brightly colored feathers," he adds. "With bats, it's all about sounds, which may be why bats use singing more than other mammals."

Bat appears to work, at least in Texas. The state is home to some of the largest bat colonies in the world, with tens of millions of bats winging through Texas at sunset. Each bat can consume immense quantities of insects as they try to find a home under bridges, in caves, barns or numerous other places that provide a dark place in which to reside.

The Mexican free-tailed bat is one of the most common bat species, measuring about four inches in length with a wingspan of about 10 to 12 inches. Dark brown in color with rounded ears, the are frequently seen in the southwest United States but are also common in Central and South America.

Explore further: Researchers studying how singing bats communicate

Related Stories

Researchers studying how singing bats communicate

October 18, 2007

Bats are the most vocal mammals other than humans, and understanding how they communicate during their nocturnal outings could lead to better treatments for human speech disorders, say researchers at Texas A&M University.

Bat Love Songs Decoded (w/ Video)

August 25, 2009

Love songs aren't only for soft rock FM stations - they're also used by romantic bats, and researchers at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin are believed to be the first to decode the mysterious love ...

New website calls for help from bat detectives

October 3, 2012

Scientists are asking for the public's help to monitor bats across Europe and track changes in our environment by listening to their weirdly wonderful ultrasonic tweets on a new website.

Do bats know voices of friends they hang out with? (w/ video)

May 7, 2013

Is it possible that mammals have the ability to recognize individuals of the same species, whom they know well, by their voice? A new study has found that even in nocturnal, fast-moving animals such as bats, there is an ability ...

Researchers uncover that moths talk about sex in many ways

July 8, 2013

Moths are nocturnal, and they have one major enemy; the bat. As a defense many moths developed ears sensitive to the bat´s echolocation cries, and they have also developed different behaviors to avoid bats. Now it turns ...

Recommended for you

Scientists discover key clues in turtle evolution

September 2, 2015

A research team led by NYIT scientist Gaberiel Bever has determined that a 260-million year-old fossil species found in South Africa's Karoo Basin provides a long awaited glimpse into the murky origins of turtles.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Claudius
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 19, 2013
"Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make."
ValeriaT
3 / 5 (2) Jul 19, 2013

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.