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Bats jam each other's sonar like freaking fighter planes

Nickolay Hristov

Bats use sonar to help them hunt in the dark — making ultrasonic noises and listening for their echoes.

But in a new study in Science, researchers have also found that Mexican free-tailed bats competing to catch the same bug make jamming calls that interfere with each other's sonar. "They get into amazing aerial dogfights," study leader William Conner, a biologist at Wake Forest University, told Live Science. "One will jam the other, and the other will jam back."

What a bat fight looks like

Bat sonar jamming

This diagram is from a video of real bats competing for prey. The open circles are the normal call they use for navigation. The closed circles are the higher rate call they use when narrowing in on prey. And the stars represent their jamming signals to try to throw each other off. (Corcoran et al. Science. November 7, 2014)

Here's the new study, from researchers at Wake Forest University. For more, check out Carrie Arnold's story at National Geographic or Christopher Intagliata's podcast at Scientific American (complete with sounds).