Predators frequently must detect and localize their prey in challenging environments. Noisy environments have been prevalent across the evolutionary history of predator–prey relationships, but now with increasing anthropogenic activities noise is becoming a more prominent feature of many landscapes. Here, we use the gleaning pallid bat, Antrozous pallidus, to investigate the mechanism by which noise disrupts hunting behaviour. Noise can primarily function to mask—obscure by spectrally overlapping a cue of interest, or distract—occupy an animal's attentional or other cognitive resources. Using band-limited white noise treatments that either overlapped the frequencies of a prey cue or did not overlap this cue, we find evidence that distraction is a primary driver of reduced hunting efficacy in an acoustically mediated predator. Under exposure to both noise types successful prey localization declined by half, search time nearly tripled, and bats used 25% more sonar pulses than when hunting in ambient conditions. Overall, the pallid bat does not seem capable of compensating for environmental noise. These findings have implications for mitigation strategies, specifically the importance of reducing sources of noise on the landscape rather than attempting to reduce the bandwidth of anthropogenic noise.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Allen, Louise C.; Hristov, Nickolay I.; Rubin, Juliette J.; Lightsey, Joseph T.; and Barber, Jesse R.. (2021). "Noise Distracts Foraging Bats". Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 288(1944), 20202689-1 - 20202689-7. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.2689