Male courtship displays and vocal communication in the polygynous bat Carollia perspicillata

in Behaviour
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Male courtship behaviour towards choosy females often comprises elaborate displays that address multiple sensory channels. In bats, detailed quantitative descriptions of multimodal courtship displays are still fairly scarce, despite the taxon’s speciose nature. We studied male courtship behaviour in a polygynous Neotropical bat, Seba’s short-tailed fruit bat Carollia perspicillata, by monitoring harem males in a captive colony. Courting male C. perspicillata performed stereotypic tactile, visual and acoustic displays. A courtship sequence, directed at one female at a time, lasted up to 120 s. During courtship, males approached females by brachiating or flying, hovered in front of them, pursued them on the wing, sniffed them and repeatedly poked the females with one or both folded wings; the latter behaviour was the most conspicuous male courtship display. Immediately before copulation, males wrapped their wings around the females and bit their necks. As acoustic display, courting male C. perspicillata produced highly variable, monosyllabic courtship trills. The species’ vocal repertoire consisted of ten different social vocalisation types, three for benign interactions (courtship trills, wobbles, isolation calls), four for aggressive encounters (aggressive trills, down-sweeps, warbles, distress calls) and the remaining three for unknown behavioural contexts (V-shaped calls, flat down-sweeps, hooks). Courtship trills and aggressive trills were exclusively produced by males. We measured 245 courtship trills of five males and found statistical evidence for a strong individual signature which has the potential to facilitate female choice, mate recognition or neighbour–stranger recognition among male competitors.

Male courtship displays and vocal communication in the polygynous bat Carollia perspicillata

in Behaviour



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    Vocal repertoire of captive C. perspicillata consisting of 10 social vocalisation types in addition to echolocation calls: aggressive down-sweeps (A), aggressive warbles (B), male aggressive trills (C), distress calls (D), benign wobbles (E), male courtship trills (F), pup isolation calls (G), echolocation calls (H), V-shaped calls (I), flat down-sweeps (J) and hooks (K). The spectrograms depict frequency as a function of time and were generated using a 1024-point fast Fourier transform, a frame size of 100% and a Hamming window with 75% overlap. These settings resulted in a frequency resolution of 293 Hz and a temporal resolution of 0.8533 ms for files with 300 kHz sampling frequency and 16 bit depth.

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    Individual signature in courtship trills of male C. perspicillata. The first two functions of a discriminant function analysis define a signal space in which the location of each male (large symbols) and every trill (small symbols) is depicted. Please note that there is only little overlap between males, indicating a pronounced individual vocal signature.


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