Hearing, echolocation, and beam steering from day 0 in tongue-clicking bats

Grace C. Smarsh, Yifat Tarnovsky, Yossi Yovel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Little is known about the ontogeny of lingual echolocation. We examined the echolocation development of Rousettus aegyptiacus, the Egyptian fruit bat, which uses rapid tongue movements to produce hyper-short clicks and steer the beam's direction. We recorded from day 0 to day 35 postbirth and assessed hearing and beam-steering abilities. On day 0, R. aegyptiacus pups emit isolation calls and hyper-short clicks in response to acoustic stimuli, demonstrating hearing. Auditory brainstem response recordings show that pups are sensitive to pure tones of the main hearing range of adult Rousettus and to brief clicks. Newborn pups produced clicks in the adult paired pattern and were able to use their tongues to steer the sonar beam. As they aged, pups produced click pairs faster, converging with adult intervals by age of first flights (7-8 weeks). In contrast with laryngeal bats, Rousettus echolocation frequency and duration are stable through to day 35, but shift by the time pups begin to fly, possibly owing to tongue-diet maturation effects. Furthermore, frequency and duration shift in the opposite direction of mammalian laryngeal vocalizations. Rousettus lingual echolocation thus appears to be a highly functional sensory system from birth and follows a different ontogeny from that of laryngeal bats.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20211714
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1961
StatePublished - 27 Oct 2021


  • Rousettus aegyptiacus
  • active sensing
  • development
  • lingual echolocation
  • ontogeny
  • pup behaviour


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