In situ novel environment assay reveals acoustic exploration as a repeatable behavioral response in migratory bats

Theresa Schabacker, Oliver Lindecke, Sofia Rizzi, Lara Marggraf, Gunārs Pētersons, Christian C. Voigt, Lysanne Snijders*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Integrating information on species-specific sensory perception with spatial activity provides a high-resolution understanding of how animals explore environments, yet frequently used exploration assays commonly ignore sensory acquisition as a measure for exploration. Echolocation is an active sensing system used by hundreds of mammal species, primarily bats. As echolocation call activity can be reliably quantified, bats present an excellent model system to investigate intraspecific variation in environmental cue sampling. Here, we developed an in situ roost-like novel environment assay for tree-roosting bats. We repeatedly tested 52 individuals of the migratory bat species, Pipistrellus nathusii, across 24 h, to examine the role of echolocation when crawling through a maze-type arena and test for consistent intraspecific variation in sensory-based exploration. We reveal a strong correlation between echolocation call activity and spatial activity. Moreover, we show that during the exploration of the maze, individuals consistently differed in spatial activity as well as echolocation call activity, given their spatial activity, a behavioral response we term ’acoustic exploration’. Acoustic exploration was correlated with other exploratory behaviors, but not with emergence latency. We here present a relevant new measure for exploration behavior and provide evidence for consistent (short-term) intra-specific variation in the level at which wild bats collect information from a novel environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8174
JournalScientific Reports
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2021

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