Vocal production learning in the pale spear-nosed bat, Phyllostomus discolor

Lattenkamp, E. Z., Vernes, S. C., & Wiegrebe, L. (2020). Vocal production learning in the pale spear-nosed bat, Phyllostomus discolor. Biology Letters, 16: 20190928. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2019.0928.
Vocal production learning (VPL), or the ability to modify vocalizations through the imitation of sounds, is a rare trait in the animal kingdom. While humans are exceptional vocal learners, few other mammalian species share this trait. Owing to their singular ecology and lifestyle, bats are highly specialized for the precise emission and reception of acoustic signals. This specialization makes them ideal candidates for the study of vocal learning, and several bat species have previously shown evidence supportive of vocal learning. Here we use a sophisticated automated set-up and a contingency training paradigm to explore the vocal learning capacity of pale spear-nosed bats. We show that these bats are capable of directional change of the fundamental frequency of their calls according to an auditory target. With this study, we further highlight the importance of bats for the study of vocal learning and provide evidence for the VPL capacity of the pale spear-nosed bat.
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