live sound collage broadcasts

Bat Chat

Highly social and vocal creatures, bats comprise almost one-fifth of the earth’s mammalian population. They live in very large colonies, maintain familial ties, and can live for decades. So it makes sense that bats would develop nuanced communications. But what do they talk about?

Yossi Yovel and his colleagues at Tel Aviv University’s Bat Lab for Neuro-ecology have some answers. They have established a “bat cave” at the university where bats can be observed and recorded but are also free to leave. The result is a colony of bats that roost in the study zone and leave to hunt each day. Using this infrastructure, and audio and video recordings, the Bat Lab has made a study of these bats’ day-to-day communications, and established that certain behaviors are associated with particular sounds.

It turns out, bats argue. The argue over food, they argue over sleeping position, they argue about sex, and who to have it with. And, perhaps most interestingly, they prefer conversing with certain bats more than other bats. Individual members of the colony were documented to have distinct preferences about which other bats they preferred to argue with.

The paper “An annotated dataset of Egyptian fruit bat vocalizations across varying contexts and during vocal ontogeny” by Yosef Prat, Mor Taub, Ester Pratt & Yossi Yovel analyzes 293,238 recorded audio files alongside video of the recorded interactions of bats at the TAU “bat cave.” This edition of Special Collections features these recordings of bat communications, compiled in indeterminacy.

The above description of the research this audio collage is based upon is terribly flip and over-simplified. Please consult the paper or take a look at the Bat Lab home page to check out their serious and amazing work. Bats in video are wearing tiny computers that measure GPS, audio, video, acceleration, EEG, and external data in the bats environment.


Broadcast date: August 24th, 2021
KCHUNG Los Angeles 1630AM

SPECIAL COLLECTIONS is a broadcast project by Sam Rowell.
Each edition is mixed live on the air.