Suppression of emission rates improves sonar performance by flying bats. Academic Article uri icon


  • Echolocating bats face the challenge of actively sensing their environment through their own emissions, while also hearing calls and echoes of nearby conspecifics. How bats mitigate interference is a long-standing question that has both ecological and technological implications, as biosonar systems continue to outperform man-made sonar systems in noisy, cluttered environments. We recently showed that perched bats decreased calling rates in groups, displaying a behavioral strategy resembling the back-off algorithms used in artificial communication networks to optimize information throughput at the group level. We tested whether free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) would employ such a coordinated strategy while performing challenging flight maneuvers, and report here that bats navigating obstacles lowered emission rates when hearing artificial playback of another bat's calls. We measured the impact of acoustic interference on navigation performance and show that the calculated reductions in interference rates are sufficient to reduce interference and improve obstacle avoidance. When bats flew in pairs, each bat responded to the presence of the other as an obstacle by increasing emissions, but hearing the sonar emissions of the nearby bat partially suppressed this response. This behavior supports social cohesion by providing a key mechanism for minimizing mutual interference.

published proceedings

  • Sci Rep

altmetric score

  • 8.6

author list (cited authors)

  • Adams, A. M., Davis, K., & Smotherman, M.

citation count

  • 15

complete list of authors

  • Adams, Amanda M||Davis, Kaylee||Smotherman, Michael

publication date

  • January 2017