Bats rely heavily on acoustic signals in order to communicate with each other in a variety of social contexts. Among those, agonistic interactions and accompanying vocalizations have received comparatively little study. Here, we studied the communicational behaviour between male greater mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis) during agonistic encounters. Two randomly paired adult males were placed in a box that allowed us to record video and sound synchronously. We describe their vocal repertoire and compare the acoustic structure of vocalizations between two aggression levels, which we quantified via the bats’ behaviour. By inspecting thirty, one-minute long encounters, we identified a rich variety of social calls that can be described as two basic call types: echolocation-like, low-frequency sweeps and long, broadband squawks. Squawks, the most common vocalization, were often noisy, i.e. exhibited a chaotic spectral structure. We further provide evidence for individual signatures and the presence of nonlinear phenomena in this species’ vocal repertoire. As the usage and acoustic structure of vocalizations is known to encode the internal state of the caller, we had predicted that the spectral structure of squawks would be affected by the caller’s aggression level. Confirming our hypothesis, we found that increased aggression positively correlated with an increase in call frequency and tonality. We hypothesize that the extreme spectral variability between and within squawks can be explained by small fluctuations in vocal control parameters (e.g. subglottal pressure) that are caused by the elevated arousal, which is in turn influenced by the aggression level.
Animal communication, bats, emotional arousal, individuality, nonlinear phenomena, vocal repertoire