Adaptive learning and recall of motor-sensory sequences in adult echolocating bats

Mor Taub, Yossi Yovel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Learning to adapt to changes in the environment is highly beneficial. This is especially true for echolocating bats that forage in diverse environments, moving between open spaces to highly complex ones. Bats are known for their ability to rapidly adjust their sensing according to auditory information gathered from the environment within milliseconds but can they also benefit from longer adaptive processes? In this study, we examined adult bats’ ability to slowly adapt their sensing strategy to a new type of environment they have never experienced for such long durations, and to then maintain this learned echolocation strategy over time. Results: We show that over a period of weeks, Pipistrellus kuhlii bats gradually adapt their pre-takeoff echolocation sequence when moved to a constantly cluttered environment. After adopting this improved strategy, the bats retained an ability to instantaneously use it when placed back in a similarly cluttered environment, even after spending many months in a significantly less cluttered environment. Conclusions: We demonstrate long-term adaptive flexibility in sensory acquisition in adult animals. Our study also gives further insight into the importance of sensory planning in the initiation of a precise sensorimotor behavior such as approaching for landing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number164
JournalBMC Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Adaptive-learning
  • Bats
  • Echolocation
  • Sensory acquisition
  • Sensory planning


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