Bats use jamming to block a rival's sonar in the battle for food

Bats use calls to jam rival's sonar in swoop for prey. Credit: Reuters/Charlie L. Harper III

Scientists have discovered that a species of bats can block a competitor's ability to get a meal, according to a new study.

It revealed that bats used an acoustic call to jam another's echolocation, meaning they disrupt the way they bounce sound waves off nearby objects to sense what is around them.

A biology postdoctoral student at the University of Maryland, discovered the behavior of the Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) by accident.

Aaron Corcoran was studying how the Grote's tiger moth (Bertholdia trigona) jams the sonar of the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) on the Arizona-New Mexico border, National Geographic reported.

He noticed Mexican free-tailed bats were making their own calls from high above where he was positioned.

Back at the lab, he noticed that the call made by the Mexican free-tailed bats was similar to the series of very fast clicking sounds the tiger moth used to block the big brown bats' sonar, and avoid being eaten.

"I had jamming signals on the brain, and so I needed to convince myself that this was true and I wasn't just imagining the similarity," he said.

The study, Bats jamming bats: Food competition through sonar interference, was published in the Science Journal.