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Concept: Eptesicus


Bats are among the most gregarious and vocal mammals, with some species demonstrating a diverse repertoire of syllables under a variety of behavioral contexts. Despite extensive characterization of big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) biosonar signals, there have been no detailed studies of adult social vocalizations. We recorded and analyzed social vocalizations and associated behaviors of captive big brown bats under four behavioral contexts: low aggression, medium aggression, high aggression, and appeasement. Even limited to these contexts, big brown bats possess a rich repertoire of social vocalizations, with 18 distinct syllable types automatically classified using a spectrogram cross-correlation procedure. For each behavioral context, we describe vocalizations in terms of syllable acoustics, temporal emission patterns, and typical syllable sequences. Emotion-related acoustic cues are evident within the call structure by context-specific syllable types or variations in the temporal emission pattern. We designed a paradigm that could evoke aggressive vocalizations while monitoring heart rate as an objective measure of internal physiological state. Changes in the magnitude and duration of elevated heart rate scaled to the level of evoked aggression, confirming the behavioral state classifications assessed by vocalizations and behavioral displays. These results reveal a complex acoustic communication system among big brown bats in which acoustic cues and call structure signal the emotional state of a caller.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Mammal, Acoustics, Bat, Big brown bat, Little brown bat, Eptesicus


This study investigated auditory stimulus selectivity in the midbrain superior colliculus (SC) of the echolocating bat, an animal that relies on hearing to guide its orienting behaviors. Multichannel, single-unit recordings were taken across laminae of the midbrain SC of the awake, passively listening big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus. Species-specific frequency-modulated (FM) echolocation sound sequences with dynamic spectrotemporal features served as acoustic stimuli along with artificial sound sequences matched in bandwidth, amplitude, and duration but differing in spectrotemporal structure. Neurons in dorsal sensory regions of the bat SC responded selectively to elements within the FM sound sequences, whereas neurons in ventral sensorimotor regions showed broad response profiles to natural and artificial stimuli. Moreover, a generalized linear model (GLM) constructed on responses in the dorsal SC to artificial linear FM stimuli failed to predict responses to natural sounds and vice versa, but the GLM produced accurate response predictions in ventral SC neurons. This result suggests that auditory selectivity in the dorsal extent of the bat SC arises through nonlinear mechanisms, which extract species-specific sensory information. Importantly, auditory selectivity appeared only in responses to stimuli containing the natural statistics of acoustic signals used by the bat for spatial orientation-sonar vocalizations-offering support for the hypothesis that sensory selectivity enables rapid species-specific orienting behaviors. The results of this study are the first, to our knowledge, to show auditory spectrotemporal selectivity to natural stimuli in SC neurons and serve to inform a more general understanding of mechanisms guiding sensory selectivity for natural, goal-directed orienting behaviors.

Concepts: Scientific method, Auditory system, Ultrasound, Animal echolocation, Generalized linear model, Sound, Big brown bat, Eptesicus


Rabies is a fatal viral encephalitic disease that is caused by lyssaviruses which can affect all mammals, including human and bats. In Europe, bat rabies cases are attributed to five different lyssavirus species, the majority of rabid bats being attributed to European bat 1 lyssavirus (EBLV-1), circulating mainly in serotine bats (Eptesicus serotinus). In France, rabies in bats is under surveillance since 1989, with 77 positive cases reported between 1989 and 2016.

Concepts: Mammal, Primate, Rodent, Bat, Rabies, Vesper bats, Eptesicus, Serotine bat


This study describes two longitudinal serological surveys of European Bat Lyssavirus type 1 (EBLV-1) antibodies in serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus) maternity colonies located in the North-East of France. This species is currently considered as the main EBLV-1 reservoir. Multievent capture-recapture models were used to determine the factors influencing bat rabies transmission as this method accounts for imperfect detection and uncertainty in disease states. Considering the period of study, analyses revealed that survival and recapture probabilities were not affected by the serological status of individuals, confirming the capacity of bats to be exposed to lyssaviruses without dying. Five bats have been found with EBLV-1 RNA in the saliva at the start of the study, suggesting they were caught during virus excretion period. Among these bats, one was interestingly recaptured one year later and harbored a seropositive status. Along the survey, some others bats have been observed to both seroconvert (i.e. move from a negative to a positive serological status) and serorevert (i.e. move from a positive to a negative serological status). Peak of seroprevalence reached 34% and 70% in site A and B respectively. On one of the 2 sites, global decrease of seroprevalence was observed all along the study period nuanced by oscillation intervals of approximately 2-3 years supporting the oscillation infection dynamics hypothesized during a previous EBLV-1 study in a Myotis myotis colony. Seroprevalence were affected by significantly higher seroprevalence in summer than in spring. The maximum time observed between successive positive serological statuses of a bat demonstrated the potential persistence of neutralizing antibodies for at least 4 years. At last, EBLV-1 serological status transitions have been shown driven by age category with higher seroreversion frequencies in adults than in juvenile. Juveniles and female adults seemed indeed acting as distinct drivers of the rabies virus dynamics, hypothesis have been addressed but their exact role in the EBLV-1 transmission still need to be specified.

Concepts: Antibody, Scientific method, Rabies, Serology, Lyssavirus, Vesper bats, Eptesicus, Serotine bat


Inhibition plays an important role in creating the temporal response properties of duration-tuned neurons (DTNs) in the mammalian inferior colliculus (IC). Neurophysiological and computational studies indicate that duration selectivity in the IC is created through the convergence of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs offset in time. We used paired tone stimulation and extracellular recording to measure the frequency tuning of the inhibition acting on DTNs in the IC of the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus). We stimulated DTNs with pairs of tones differing in duration, onset time, and frequency. The onset time of a short, best duration (BD), probe tone set to the best excitatory frequency (BEF) was varied relative to the onset of a longer duration, non-excitatory (NE) tone whose frequency was varied. When the NE tone frequency was near or within the cell’s excitatory bandwidth (eBW), BD tone evoked spikes were suppressed by an onset-evoked inhibition. The offset and duration of the suppression decreased as the NE tone frequency departed from the BEF. We measured the inhibitory frequency response area, best inhibitory frequency (BIF), and inhibitory bandwidth (iBW) of each cell. We found that the BIF closely matched the BEF, but the iBW was broader and usually overlapped the eBW measured from the same cell. These data suggest that temporal selectivity of midbrain DTNs is created and preserved by having cells receive an onset-evoked, constant-latency, broadband inhibition that largely overlaps the cell’s excitatory receptive field. We conclude by discussing possible neural sources of the inhibition.

Concepts: Nervous system, Action potential, Neuroscience, Neurotransmitter, Neurophysiology, Superior colliculus, Big brown bat, Eptesicus


Bat wings are highly adaptive airfoils that enable demanding flight maneuvers, which are performed with astonishing robustness under turbulent conditions, and stability at slow flight velocities. The bat wing is sparsely covered with microscopically small, sensory hairs that are associated with tactile receptors. In a previous study we demonstrated that bat wing hairs are involved in sensing airflow for improved flight maneuverability. Here, we report physical measurements of these hairs and their distribution on the wing surface of the big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus, based on scanning electron microscopy analyses. The wing hairs are strongly tapered, and are found on both the dorsal and ventral wing surfaces. Laser scanning vibrometry tests of 43 hairs from twelve locations across the wing of the big brown bat revealed that their natural frequencies inversely correlate with length and range from 3.7 to 84.5 kHz. Young’s modulus of the average wing hair was calculated at 4.4 GPa, which is comparable with rat whiskers or arthropod airflow-sensing hairs.

Concepts: Protein, Electron, Electron microscope, Scanning electron microscope, Young's modulus, Big brown bat, Wing, Eptesicus


We determined dose-response curves for sublethal effects of the organophosphorus (OP) insecticide, chlorpyrifos, on bats. Big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus, n = 64) were given a single dose of chlorpyrifos (nominal concentrations) of 0, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, or 60 µg/g body weight and examined at 12 or 24 h after dosing. A second experiment dosed 32 bats with 0 or 60 µg/g body weight and examined 1, 3, 7, or 14 days after dosing. Skin temperature and behavioral changes were recorded, and brain and plasma cholinesterase (ChE) activity were measured. The benchmark dose (BMD10) of chlorpyrifos that altered brain and plasma ChE activity at 24 h was 3.7 and 10.1 µg/g, respectively. The 95 % lower confidence limit for the BMD10 (i.e., BMDL10) was 1.6 and 7.7 µg/g. The best of five models (as determined by AIC) for impaired flight, impaired movement, or presence of tremors provided a BMD10 of 6.2, 12.9, and 7.8 µg/g body weight of chlorpyrifos, respectively. BMDL10 for impaired flight, impaired movement, or presence of tremors was 3.5, 6.6, and 5.3 µg/g body weight, respectively. In the wild, impaired ability to fly or crawl could be life-threatening. Brain and plasma ChE activity remained low for 3 days after dosing. Gradual recovery of enzyme activity was observed by 7 days in survivors. Brain and plasma ChE activity were still significantly lower than that of the control group at 14 days after dosing.

Concepts: Enzyme, Chemistry, Dose, Confidence interval, Insecticide, Big brown bat, Dose-response relationship, Eptesicus


The big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus, uses echolocation for orientation and foraging, and scans its surroundings by aiming its sonar beam at obstacles and prey. All call parameters are highly adaptable and determine the bat’s acoustic field of view and hence its perception of the echo scene. The intensity (source level) and directionality of the emitted calls directly contribute to the bat’s acoustic field of view; however, the source level and directionality of the big brown bat’s sonar signals have not been measured in the field. In addition, for bats, navigation and prey capture require that they process several streams of acoustic information. By using stereotypic flight paths in known areas, bats may be able to reduce the sensory processing load for orientation and therefore allocate echo processing resources to prey. Here we recorded the echolocation calls from foraging E. fuscus, in the field with a microphone array and estimated call intensity and directionality, based on reconstructed flight trajectories. The source levels were intense with an average max SL of 138 dB (rms re 20 µPa at 0.1 m.). Further, measurements taken from a subset of calls indicate that the echolocation signals in the field may be more directional than estimated in the lab (half amplitude angle=30° at 35 kHz). We also observed that E. fuscus appear to follow stereotypic flight paths, and propose that this could be a strategy to optimize foraging efficiency by minimizing the sensory processing load.

Concepts: Ultrasound, Animal echolocation, Sound, Bat, Big brown bat, Little brown bat, Sonar, Eptesicus


Four big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) were challenged in an obstacle avoidance experiment to localize vertically stretched wires requiring progressively greater accuracy by diminishing the wire-to-wire distance from 50 to 10 cm. The performance of the bats decreased with decreasing gap size. The avoidance task became very difficult below a wire separation of 30 cm, which corresponds to the average wing span of E. fuscus. Two of the bats were able to pass without collisions down to a gap size of 10 cm in some of the flights. The other two bats only managed to master gap sizes down to 20 and 30 cm respectively. They also performed distinctly worse at all other gap sizes. With increasing difficulty of the task, the bats changed their flight and echolocation behaviour. Especially at gap sizes of 30 cm and below, flight paths increased in height and flight speed was reduced. In addition, the bats emitted approach signals which were arranged in groups. At all gap sizes the largest numbers of pulses per group were observed in the last group before passing the obstacle. The more difficult the obstacle avoidance task, the more pulses there were in the groups and the shorter the within-group pulse intervals. In comparable situations, the better performing bats always emitted groups with more pulses than the less well-performing individuals. We hypothesize that the accuracy of target localization increases with the number of pulses per group and that each group is processed as a package.

Concepts: Bat, Big brown bat, Little brown bat, Flight, Wing, Flying and gliding animals, Vesper bats, Eptesicus


Since bat rabies surveillance was first implemented in France in 1989, 48 autochthonous rabies cases without human contamination have been reported using routine diagnosis methods. In this retrospective study, data on bats submitted for rabies testing were analysed in order to better understand the epidemiology of EBLV-1 in bats in France and to investigate some epidemiological trends. Of the 3176 bats submitted for rabies diagnosis from 1989 to 2013, 1.96% (48/2447 analysed) were diagnosed positive. Among the twelve recognised virus species within the Lyssavirus genus, two species were isolated in France. 47 positive bats were morphologically identified as Eptesicus serotinus and were shown to be infected by both the EBLV-1a and the EBLV-1b lineages. Isolation of BBLV in Myotis nattereri was reported once in the north-east of France in 2012. The phylogenetic characterisation of all 47 French EBLV-1 isolates sampled between 1989 and 2013 and the French BBLV sample against 21 referenced partial nucleoprotein sequences confirmed the low genetic diversity of EBLV-1 despite its extensive geographical range. Statistical analysis performed on the serotine bat data collected from 1989 to 2013 showed seasonal variation of rabies occurrence with a significantly higher proportion of positive samples detected during the autumn compared to the spring and the summer period (34% of positive bats detected in autumn, 15% in summer, 13% in spring and 12% in winter). In this study, we have provided the details of the geographical distribution of EBLV-1a in the south-west of France and the north-south division of EBLV-1b with its subdivisions into three phylogenetic groups: group B1 in the north-west, group B2 in the centre and group B3 in the north-east of France.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Evolution, Virus, Season, Rabies, Summer, Eptesicus, Serotine bat