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Prof. Dr. Hans-Ulrich Schnitzler

Organization: Werner Reichardt Centre for Integrative Neuroscience / University of Tübingen


Auf der Morgenstelle 28
72076 Tübingen

Phone number: +49 (0)7071 29 75345

Department: CIN Echolocation in Bats / Institute of Neurobiology, Animal Physiology

Position: Head of Research Group

Area: CIN Staff

Scientific topic: Echolocation in Bats

Field of Research

We investigate the echolocation behaviour of bats. Bats have to solve a multitude of different echolocation tasks depending on where they fly and forage, what they eat and how they acquire food. In the course of evolution bats evolved a repertoire of species-specific signals and behaviours that have been adapted to the echolocation tasks that have to be performed. In a tightly coupled action-perception loop echolocating bats continuously evaluate the incoming information, form an inner representation of the outside world and select the appropriate signals types and emission pattern to reach an intended behavioural goal. In this decision making process bats select from a set of options given by their species-specific repertoires of signal types that vary in frequency structure, duration and intensity, and of task specific sound patterns and scanning behaviours. We compare and analyze the echolocation behaviours of different species of bats at typical echolocation tasks to understand the decision making processes that lead to these behaviours and to conceive their adaptive value.


Recording and analysis of ultrasound, 3D infrared video for reconstruction of flight paths, high speed video, telemetric transmission of signals and echoes with a mini-tranmitter fixed on the bat, 16 microphone array to describe form and direction of sonar beams, biomimetic sonar system on a robot arm.


behavioural neuroscience; echolocation; neuro-ethology; spatial cognition / orientation

  1. Yovel Y, Melcon ML,  Franz MO, Denzinger A, Schnitzler HU (2009). The voice of bats: How greater mouse-eared bats recognize individuals based on their echolocation calls. PLoS Comput Biol 5(6): e1000400.doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000400.
  2. Yovel Y, Stilz P, Franz MO, Boonman A, Schnitzler HU (2009). What does a plant sound like? The statistics of natural plant echoes as received by echolocating bats. PLoS Comput Biol 5(7): e1000429.doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000429.
  3. Siemers BM, Schnitzler HU (2004). Echolocation signals reflect niche differentiation in five sympatric congeneric bat species. Nature 429:657-661.