Superfast Muscles Set Maximum Call Rate in Echolocating Bats

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Science  30 Sep 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6051, pp. 1885-1888
DOI: 10.1126/science.1207309

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As an echolocating bat closes in on a flying insect, it increases call emission to rates beyond 160 calls per second. This high call rate phase, dubbed the terminal buzz, has proven enigmatic because it is unknown how bats are able to produce calls so quickly. We found that previously unknown and highly specialized superfast muscles power rapid call rates in the terminal buzz. Additionally, we show that laryngeal motor performance, not overlap between call production and the arrival of echoes at the bat’s ears, limits maximum call rate. Superfast muscles are rare in vertebrates and always associated with extraordinary motor demands on acoustic communication. We propose that the advantages of rapid auditory updates on prey movement selected for superfast laryngeal muscle in echolocating bats.

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