Mexican free-tailed bats utilize sonar jamming to pursue prey

As it turns out, the Mexican Free-Tailed Bat gets aggressive when it comes to attacking their prey, or hunting down their prey. Even more interesting, is that these bats are ultra-competitive with each other, to obtain the food that they’re hunting.

The sound is a sonar-jamming sound, and it is specialized to impact these bats specifically. In fact, it scrambles the echolocation of competitors, according to scientists. The jamming signal, or sound, makes the animals miss their target, and fly awry. This is the first time, the scientists report, that anything like this has been found in this particular species.


Bats have long relied on sonar signal to hunt, fly, and move about, as they’re considered mostly-blind when it comes to traditional means of sight and movement. The scrambling sound works against the high-pitched sound waves the bats emit, that ultimately gain speed as they get closer to their target. Additionally, this points to the fact that the bats can be taken completely off of their track by a competing sound.

The scientists recreated the situations that the bats were flying in, and hunting in, to make the determination that they did. Ultimately, what they found verified what they originally had thought was happening. The bats were having their signals jammed by the other bats. The competing sounds were working against the animals – and they were missing the moths that they were ultimately hunting for in the first place. However, the sound was so unique that it took the specialized sound to throw off their radars, so to speak.

Traditional sound would not disrupt them in the same way, as the specialized sonar sound did. Scientists were quick to note that if it were not for technology, and the ability to lay out microphones, and cameras to track and determine the positioning of these creatures throughout their flight, beyond simply understanding the sound that they were making.

“This study reveals another way in which bats have learnt to take advantage of their competitors by listening out for their feeding buzzes… Presumably with the intention of then sneaking in and catching an insect for themselves,” said Dr. Kate Barlow the head of monitoring at the Bat Conservation Trust.