The Role of Tragus in Echolocating Bat, Eptescus Fuscus

Hanging bats

    There are two major components of the bat's external ears, the pinna and tragus. The role of the external ear in sonar target localization for prey capture was studied by deflecting the tragus of six big brown bats, Eptesicus fuscus. The prey capture performance of the bat dropped significantly in the tragus-deflection condition, compared with baseline, control, and recovery conditions. Target localization error occurred in the tragus-deflected bat, and mainly in elevation. The deflection of the tragus did not abolish the prey capture ability of the bat, which suggests that other cues are available used for prey localization. Adaptive vocal and motor behaviors were also investigated in this study. The bat did not show significant changes in vocal behaviors but modified its flight trajectories in response to the tragus manipulation. The tragus-deflected bat tended to attack the prey item from above and had lower tangential velocity and larger bearing from the side, compared with baseline and recovery conditions. These findings highlight the contribution of the tragus to vertical sound localization in the free-flying big brown bat and demonstrate flight adaptations the bat makes to compensate altered acoustic cues.

bat ear
    bat performance