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Title: Echolocating bats accumulate information from acoustic snapshots to predict auditory object motion

Unlike other predators that use vision as their primary sensory system, bats compute the three-dimensional (3D) position of flying insects from discrete echo snapshots, which raises questions about the strategies they employ to track and intercept erratically moving prey from interrupted sensory information. Here, we devised an ethologically inspired behavioral paradigm to directly test the hypothesis that echolocating bats build internal prediction models from dynamic acoustic stimuli to anticipate the future location of moving auditory targets. We quantified the direction of the bat’s head/sonar beam aim and echolocation call rate as it tracked a target that moved across its sonar field and applied mathematical models to differentiate between nonpredictive and predictive tracking behaviors. We discovered that big brown bats accumulate information across echo sequences to anticipate an auditory target’s future position. Further, when a moving target is hidden from view by an occluder during a portion of its trajectory, the bat continues to track its position using an internal model of the target’s motion path. Our findings also reveal that the bat increases sonar call rate when its prediction of target trajectory is violated by a sudden change in target velocity. This shows that the bat rapidly adapts its sonar more » behavior to update internal models of auditory target trajectories, which would enable tracking of evasive prey. Collectively, these results demonstrate that the echolocating big brown bat integrates acoustic snapshots over time to build prediction models of a moving auditory target’s trajectory and enable prey capture under conditions of uncertainty.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 29229-29238
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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