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Bats imitate buzzing sound of hornets to discourage predatory owls from eating them, study finds

Buzz off! Greater mouse-eared bats imitate the buzzing sound of hornets to discourage predatory owls from eating them, study finds

  • Greater mouse-eared bats use a technique called Batesian mimicry
  • This is mimicry where harmless species imitate warning signs of harmful species
  • In this case, the bats mimic the buzzing of hornets to put off predatory owls 

From moths to snakes, many animals use cunning mimicry techniques to survive.

Now, a new study has revealed how greater mouse-eared bats use a technique called Batesian mimicry – a form of mimicry where a harmless species has evolved to imitate the warning signals of harmful species.

Researchers from Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II in Portici, Italy found that the animals imitate the buzzing sound of hornets to discourage predatory owls from eating them.

A new study has revealed how greater mouse-eared bats use a technique called Batesian mimicry – a form of mimicry where a harmless species has evolved to imitate the warning signals of harmful species

Researchers from Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II in Portici, Italy found that the bats imitate the buzzing sound of hornet to discourage predatory owls from eating them

Researchers from Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II in Portici, Italy found that the bats imitate the buzzing sound of hornet to discourage predatory owls from eating them

What is Batesian mimicry? 

Batesian mimicry is a form of mimicry where a harmless species has evolved to imitate the warning signals of harmful species.

The mimic gains protection because predators mistake it for the harmful species and leave it alone. 

This form of mimicry is named for its discoverer, the 19th-century English naturalist H.W. Bates.

‘In Batesian mimicry, a non-armed species imitates an armed one to deter predators,’ said Danilo Russo, an author of the study.

‘Imagine a bat that has been seized but not killed by the predator. 

‘Buzzing might deceive the predator for a fraction of a second – enough to fly away.’

The discovery marks the first time that a mammal has been found to use acoustic Batesian mimicry.

The researchers made the discovery while conducting field research.

‘When we handled the bats to take them out of the net or process them, they invariably buzzed like wasps,’ Russo said.

In the study, the team recorded the buzzing sounds of bats and hornets, before playing the recordings back to captive owls via a speaker to see their reaction.

The results revealed the owls consistently reacted to both the insect and bat buzzes by moving farther away from the speaker.

In contrast, the sound of potential prey led the owls to move closer to the speaker.

The discovery marks the first time that a mammal has been found to use acoustic Batesian mimicry

The discovery marks the first time that a mammal has been found to use acoustic Batesian mimicry

The researchers suggest that the owls have likely been stung by hornets before, so know to avoid the buzzing sound – although they don’t have the data to confirm it yet.

Owls, hornets and greater mouse-eared bats all share many of the same spaces, including caves, rock crevices and buildings, so there’s likely plenty of opportunities for them to interact, according to the researchers.

Despite this, the researchers say the intricate relationship between the animals is ‘intriguing.’

In the study, the team recorded the buzzing sounds of bats and hornets (pictured), before playing the recordings back to captive owls to see their reaction

In the study, the team recorded the buzzing sounds of bats and hornets (pictured), before playing the recordings back to captive owls to see their reaction

‘It is somewhat surprising that owls represent the evolutionary pressure shaping acoustic behavior in bats in response to unpleasant experiences owls have with stinging insects,’ said Russo.

‘It is just one of the endless examples of the beauty of evolutionary processes!’

The team believes there are likely other bat species who use similar strategies to evade predators.

They now hope to look for these species in future studies.

Male superb lyrebirds imitate the sound of a nearby predator attack to trick females into thinking the safest place to be is having SEX with them 

Male superb lyrebirds imitate the sound of a flock defending itself in order to trick females into thinking the safest place to be is having sex with them, a study found. 

When predators attack, some birds call out loudly, as a sort-of alarm signal — one that encourages their fellows and other species of bird to gather in a defensive flock.

This so-called ‘mobbing flock’ — which is often formed to protect young — will then fly over, harass or attack the predator in an effort to distract it or drive it off.

Experts from the US and Australia discovered that male superb lyrebirds mimic the cacophony of a mobbing flock to scare females into copulating with them. 

Australia’s lyrebirds are among nature’s best mimics, have the most developed vocal organ of all songbirds and copy other birds’ songs, animals and even chainsaws.

Read more 



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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk