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Language of the bats: that's how complex it is


The language of the bats is as interesting as it is unique. Using a speech recognition program, researchers have now found that the little fluttering men communicate with each other in a much more variable way than previously thought. Bats mostly live in larger groups in caves - Shutterstock / All-stock-photos

Bats communicate a lot, loudly and complexly. Researchers from the University of Tel Aviv did the field experiment and overheard a group of bats. What they found amazed scientists worldwide.

The experiment: Researchers use machines for people

The researchers around Yossiv Yovel (Tel Aviv) went into a cave for their experiment to eavesdrop on a small colony of 22 animals over 75 days, reports "Die Presse", among others. They had a language program with them that was actually developed for human language. On the one hand, this recognizes patterns and, on the other hand, also behavior and social situations in which the test subjects find themselves. It was possible to investigate how the bat group communicates with each other. The result: the cacophony is more than simple noise, it is a complex form of entertainment.

Language of the bats: The fluttering animals talk about this

The interesting thing is that both the voice and the volume of the chatty bats adapt to their respective "conversation partners". For example, communication is different with a female than with a male. The researchers were able to roughly divide the bat language into four subject areas: sleeping place, food, approach and complaints of all kinds. The animals made different sounds depending on what and with whom they spoke. A complaint that another bat has come too close sounds different than a complaint that someone stole your favorite sleeping place on the cave ceiling. And communication sounds on the topic of feed are intoned and expressed differently than sounds on the topic of mating. Such variability is not a matter of course in the animal kingdom and has so far only been comparable to monkeys, whales and birds.

The bat is an interesting animal for researchers

Bats have unique abilities and are interesting objects of study for researchers like Yossiv Yovel. So far, science has also dealt with ultrasound detection, which bats use to locate their prey while hunting in the air. While sounds are produced with the mouth, the echolocation is emitted through the nose.

Sound is also used for communication. Among other things, contact calls are transmitted by sound. The calls, which last only a few milliseconds - perceptible as a short click - are used, among other things, to make remote contact with fellow species. The individual call consists of several components and is repeated many times and expressed in series, reports "deutschlandradiokultur.de".

Back to Tel Aviv: The researchers around Yovel now want to clarify whether the language ability is innate or learned, that is, whether the animals can learn this language complexity from children's wings or only learn within a bat colony in the course of life.