News Round-Up

Mother bats use baby talk to communicate with their pups


Just as humans with their babies, adult female bats change their vocalisations when interacting with “babbling” pups, which could be interpreted as positive feedback to their offspring during vocal practice

When talking to babies, humans slow down their speech, raise their pitch and change the “colour” of their voice. This “baby talk,” as people know it, increases the infant’s attention and facilitates language learning. Among animals, mothers often engage in pup-directed vocalisations too, but does this also imply voice changes? A team of scientists that included Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) researchers explored whether infant-directed communication in bats resulted in vocalisation changes.

They focused on the greater sac-winged bat Saccopteryx bilineata, a common Central and South American species with a large vocal repertoire employed in the elaboration of complex songs for territorial defence and courtship. Female choice in mating is very pronounced in this species, which probably led to the complexity of courtship vocalisations in males. MORE

Header image: Female greater sac-winged bat (below in the picture), Saccopteryx bilineata, communicating with her pup in their daytime roost. Credit: Michael Stifter.