Just call it bat chat. Researchers from Tel Aviv University have managed to decipher bat calls, to find out exactly what they’re talking about.
The team spent 75 days monitoring a group of 22 Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) round-the-clock. After recording tens of thousands of calls, the researchers used a machine-learning algorithm to pick out various details in the sounds. They found that they could identify which bats were calling, which bats the calls were being directed at, and could even get an idea what the animals were saying.
“When you enter a bat cave, you hear a lot of ‘gibberish’, a cacophony of aggressive bat noise,” said Prof Yossi Yovel, who led the study. “Previous research presumed that most bat communication was based on screaming and shouting. We wanted to know how much information was actually conveyed – and we wanted to see if we could, in fact, extract that information,” he added.
The researchers found the majority of the bats’ bickering was over food, perching spots or mating attempts. They were also able to identify different intonations indicating the greetings of a ‘friend’ or a ‘foe’.
According to the researchers, further study of animal calls could help to piece together the evolution of communication and even the birth of human language.