SENSORY BIOLOGY: Bats perceptually weight prey cues across sensory systems when hunting in noise

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Abstract

Anthropogenic noise can interfere with environmental information processing and thereby reduce survival and reproduction. Receivers of signals and cues in particular depend on perceptual strategies to adjust to noisy conditions. We found that predators that hunt using prey sounds can reduce the negative impact of noise by making use of prey cues conveyed through additional sensory systems. In the presence of masking noise, but not in its absence, frog-eating bats preferred and were faster in attacking a robotic frog emitting multiple sensory cues. The behavioral changes induced by masking noise were accompanied by an increase in active localization through echolocation. Our findings help to reveal how animals can adapt to anthropogenic noise and have implications for the role of sensory ecology in driving species interactions.

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