May 31, 2023


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To save their lives these bats have learned to buzz like wasps

3 min read

Some species like bats during evolution and in their desire for survival, have developed characteristics such as speed, smell, some fly, others swim, others jump and others know how to hide until they become almost invisible, some animals take advantage of their size, others of their intelligence, and there are even species that have learned to imitate the strategies of other species for their own benefit. One of the most fascinating phenomena of nature such as mimicry is, its application reflects complex relationships, subtle and effectively fine-tuned variations that make a species resemble another different organism or blend in with its own environment to obtain some functional advantage.

This phenomenon also occurs between predators, most cases of mimicry occurs between prey that have evolved to discourage or confuse the attacker. In these scenarios, the mimic exhibits phenotypic convergence toward a model organism that is inedible, harmful, or dangerous, and thus the predator will refrain from attacking or ingesting the mimic. This is specifically known as Batesian Mimicry in honor of the British naturalist and explorer Henry Walter Bates who, in the 19th century, studied certain butterflies of the Amazon with astonishment and discovered that some harmless species resembled others more dangerous or disgusting, thus managing to elude them. to their predators.

The most observed type of mimicry is visual mimicry, that is when one species visually resembles another, but now new research has discovered the first case of acoustic mimicry between a mammal and an insect, an acquired skill that could save your skin of certain bats.

This idea was born when Danilo Russo, professor of ecology at the University of Naples, was preparing his doctorate with a species of bat known as the large-eared or large buzzard (Myotis myotis). The professor noticed that, when he took these bats out of their cage, when he handled them or approached them, the animals spread a sound similar to that of wasps or hornets. It was at that moment that he wondered if that buzzing was an involuntary cry of fear, a warning or a warning to his companions, or perhaps it could refer to a cunning attempt to trick any potential threat into backing off if he didn’t want to end up with them. the face full of bites.

It would be the first case of acoustic mimicry between mammals and insects if the suggestive idea turned out to be true, but it was also difficult to prove. Their first step was to check if the two sounds were indeed alike so they recorded 4 species of hymenoptera biting in their natural habitats and compared them to recordings of buzzes made by long-eared bats. “It was concluded that the sounds were quite similar,” explains Danilo Russo on the Scientific American 60 Seconds Podcast.

The issue became even more significant when scientists filtered the audio to include only frequencies that can be heard by owls, the main predator of these bats. His next step was to travel to a bird rescue center where Russo and his colleagues exposed 16 owls and barn owls to recordings of the buzzing of bees or wasps and the buzzing spread of bats, as well as recording the birds’ reactions. “In all cases, both in the bees and in the bat buzz, the birds moved away from the source of the sound.

It could be that the owls just don’t like the noise, so the third step the researchers took was to expose the owls to non-buzzing bat sounds, finding in this case that the owl’s reaction was to get closer to inspect the source. of the sounds, probably because he understood that there was potentially tasty prey there.

The question now is whether this kind of acoustic mimicry might be much more prevalent than we thought. The published study has taken almost 2 decades of work and experiments to show that the buzzing sound emitted by long-eared bats certainly works to scare off predators. Posted by, a news and information agency.

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