Does habitat reflectivity influence the detection of bat echolocation by moths?

Honours project

The evolutionary arms race between bats and their moth prey is one of the most studied instances of predator-prey coevolution. To avoid predation by hunting bats, many moths have evolved ears attuned to hear the calls of predating bats between 20 and 50kHz. As predicted in the Allotonic Frequency Hypothesis (AFH),  insectivorous bats that call at frequencies outside the optimal hearing range of their prey to maximise their chances of capturing a meal. Habitat structure, however, is well-known to influence the propagation of emitted signals due to sound wave scattering and reflectivity by vegetation and other barriers. To investigate if habitat reflectivity influences the detection of bat calls by moths, calls from South African bat species (Chiroptera: Rhinolophus capensis, R. clivosus and Neoromicia capensis) were broadcasted and recorded at intervals of 1m, 3m and 5m in open and fynbos (scrub) habitat. It is hoped that this information, paired with previously published data on bat diet (moth prevalence) and moth hearing sensitivity, will help to answer questions about habitat playing a potential role in bat call detection by moths.

Other Team Members

Stuart Parsons