Echolocating bats can adjust sensory acquisition based on internal cues

Arjan Boonman, Itai Rieger, Eran Amichai, Stefan Greif, Ofri Eitan, Aya Goldshtein, Yossi Yovel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Sensory systems acquire both external and internal information to guide behavior. Adjustments based on external input are much better documented and understood than internal-based sensory adaptations. When external input is not available, idiothetic—internal—cues become crucial for guiding behavior. Here, we take advantage of the rapid sensory adjustments exhibited by bats in order to study how animals rely on internal cues in the absence of external input. Constant frequency echolocating bats are renowned for their Doppler shift compensation response used to adjust their emission frequency in order to optimize sensing. Previous studies documented the importance of external echoes for this response. Results: We show that the Doppler compensation system works even without external feedback. Bats experiencing accelerations in an echo-free environment exhibited an intact compensation response. Moreover, using on-board GPS tags on free-flying bats in the wild, we demonstrate that the ability to perform Doppler shift compensation response based on internal cues might be essential in real-life when echo feedback is not available. Conclusions: We thus show an ecological need for using internal cues as well as an ability to do so. Our results illustrate the robustness of one particular sensory behavior; however, we suggest this ability to rely on different streams of information (i.e., internal or external) is probably relevant for many sensory behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number166
JournalBMC Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Active sensing
  • Doppler shift compensation
  • Echolocation
  • Idiothetic cues
  • Sensory adjustment


Dive into the research topics of 'Echolocating bats can adjust sensory acquisition based on internal cues'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this