Fruit detection and discrimination by small fruit-eating bats (Phyllostomidae): Echolocation call design and olfaction

Carmi Korine, Elisabeth K.V. Kalko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


We studied the role of echolocation and other sensory cues in two small frugivorous New World leaf-nosed bats (Phyllostomidae: Artibeus watsoni and Vampyressa pusilla) feeding on different types of fig fruit. To test which cues the bats need to find these fruit, we conducted behavioral experiments in a flight cage with ripe and similar-sized figs where we selectively excluded vision, olfaction, and echolocation cues from the bats. In another series of experiments, we tested the discrimination abilities of the bats and presented sets of fruits that differed in ripeness (ripe, unripe), size (small, large), and quality (intact(infested with caterpillars). We monitored the bats' foraging and echolocation behavior simultaneously. In flight, both bat species continuously emitted short (<2 ms), multi-harmonic, and steep frequency-modulated (FM) calls of high frequencies, large bandwidth, and very low amplitude. Foraging behavior of bats was composed of two distinct stages: search or orienting flight followed by approach behavior consisting of exploration flights, multiple approaches of a selected fruit, and final acquisition of ripe figs in flight or in a brief landing. Both bat species continuously emitted echolocation calls. Structure and pattern of signals changed predictably when the bats switched from search or orienting calls to approach calls. We did not record a terminal phase before final acquisition of a fruit, as it is typical for aerial insectivorous bats prior to capture. Both bat species selected ripe over unripe fruit and non-infested over infested fruit. Artibeus watsoni preferred larger over smaller fruit. We conclude from our experiments, that the bats used a combination of odor-guided detection together with echolocation for localization in order to find ripe fruit and to discriminate among them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-23
Number of pages12
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Artibeus
  • Foraging
  • Sensory cues
  • Vampyressa Ficus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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