Bats lower the emission SPL when approaching a target. The SPL reduction has been explained by intensity compensation which implies that bats adjust the emission SPL to perceive the retuning echoes at the same level. For a better understanding of this control mechanism we recorded the echolocation signals of four Myotis myotis with an onboard microphone when foraging in the passive mode for rustling mealworms offered in two feeding dishes with different target strength, and determined the reduction rate for the emission SPL and the increase rate for the SPL of the returning echoes. When approaching the dish with higher target strength bats started the reduction of the emission SPL at a larger reaction distance (1.05 ± 0.21 m) and approached it with a lower reduction rate of 7.2 dB/halving of distance (hd), thus producing a change of echo rate at the ears of + 4 dB/hd. At the weaker target reaction distance was shorter (0.71 ± 0.24 m) and the reduction rate (9.1 dB/hd) was higher, producing a change of echo rate of—1.2 dB/hd. Independent of dish type, bats lowered the emission SPL by about 26 dB on average. In one bat where the echo SPL from both targets could be measured, the reduction of emission SPL was triggered when the echo SPL surpassed a similar threshold value around 41–42 dB. Echo SPL was not adjusted at a constant value indicating that Myotis myotis and most likely all other bats do not use a closed loop system for intensity compensation when approaching a target of interest. We propose that bats lower the emission SPL to adjust the SPL of the perceived pulse-echo-pairs to the optimal auditory range for the processing of range information and hypothesize that bats use flow field information not only to control the reduction of the approach speed to the target but also to control the reduction of emission SPL.
Budenz, T., Denzinger, A., & Schnitzler, H. U. (2018). Reduction of emission level in approach signals of greater mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis): No evidence for a closed loop control system for intensity compensation. PLoS ONE, 13(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194600