Hey Thomas Nagel: bats argue a lot about where the best restaurants are!

Let’s not give them Twitter:

They found that the bat noises are not just random, as previously thought, reports Skibba. They were able to classify 60 percent of the calls into four categories. One of the call types indicates the bats are arguing about food. Another indicates a dispute about their positions within the sleeping cluster. A third call is reserved for males making unwanted mating advances and the fourth happens when a bat argues with another bat sitting too close. In fact, the bats make slightly different versions of the calls when speaking to different individuals within the group, similar to a human using a different tone of voice when talking to different people. Skibba points out that besides humans, only dolphins and a handful of other species are known to address individuals rather than making broad communication sounds.

Here is further information, here is the original research, via the excellent Samir Varma.

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It gets very crowded in their roosts which can have millions of bats, so it makes sense they need to communicate a lot.
We know they often find roosts by listening to vocalizations of other bats.

I notice from the spectrograms that they have a greater vocal range than us (~ 0 to 60 KHz versus 0 ~ to 20 KHz)

But "argue"?
The empirical evidence probably can't bear such a loaded term.

Indeed. Chickens do pretty much all that is described for those bats. Although I would expect bats to be smart than chickens (in the sense that I would expect an oyster to be smarter than a chicken).

Hot MR Oldie Take: What happened to Ray's chickens? He had some and told us about them all the time. They disappeared about the same time as the Filippino girl friend half his age. Were they all processed into Jolibee?

@MSFS - oh, my post got lost in the ether. I'm still with my girl, but got out of the chicken business (low margins), now we raise pigeons for fun.

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who wants to tell crazy uncle paulie and david wreckoning brooks that they have been pushing russian spy misinformation for the last 3 years

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Our white cell overlords do the same calls with cytokines. I think it is a conspiracy.

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My cat does this. Not impressed.

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I live near a large fruit bat/flying fox colony. The info posted there says that many of the calls are identified, and it seems like it from watching them. A good deal of the "chatter" does seem like "Stop touching me!" "No, you stop touching me!" "No, YOU stop touching ME!" and so on.

Nash equilibrium in action.

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Bats get a bum rap, we have some now in our VA attic (it's illegal to kill them, you must bring in pros who relocate them), as they get blamed for things like starting Covid-19 (which came from a Wuhan lab). What is the status of White-nose syndrome? I see it's still growing ("A 2019 study found that bats treated with Pseudomonas fluorescens, a probiotic bacterium previously used in chytridiomycosis treatments, were five times more likely to survive post-hibernation").

What other species vocalize to individuals? I am guessing besides primates, dolphins, bats, it is elephants.

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For the lay person: Nagel said we can't imagine what it's like to be a bat, so consciousness is magic (?). I've always disliked this argument.

For one, it relies on you having Flintstones era stereotypes about bats. Many bats have human equivalent vision. They are not (usually) blind as Nagel thought. Even then he tried to say bats echolocate, and humans can't imagine that. Many (blind) humans have also learned to echolocate. Even if we can't do it to the degree bats can we absolutely can get a feel for it with training. Blind humans happen to be better at echolocation because it relies on using the visual cortex to process sound, when most of us are busy using that area for vision. It's the same effect as when someone is daydreaming so they don't see someone approach. The visual cortex is busy (processing a fantasy).

Hot take: Nagel is one of the biggest wastes of time in Philosophy.

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In the film The Fly (1958), the human who is converted into a fly experienced what life was like as a fly, but he experienced it as a human not as a fly. Nagel made this point using bats, but it's the same point about consciousness. I might point out that the expression "bat-brained" means the same thing as bats in the belfry (mentally unstable). I was thinking about the bat-brained members of the cult of selfishness when I read Krugman's column this morning. Bats in the belfry, indeed!

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Avoid eating bugs where all the attractive female bats are eating bugs.

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I have a friend who played on an intramural softball team with the philosophy department. They called their team "Nagel's bats".

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Nice, in an "aren't we all just bats" way.

And as regards philosophy, a reminder that we are just critters ourselves.

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Yes but what's the Straussian reading of what bats are saying?

“No, YOU go scratch that pangolin in the Wuhan wet market! I did it last time!”

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same thing was figured out about prairie dogs decades ago.

turns out they aren’t merely blurting out arbitrary undifferentiated sounds, but actually have a vocabulary to help communicate about specific potential risks

It is quite obvious to anyone watching for any amount of time that the interactions are complex. Someone watched Harlequin sucks on the west coast, found they were monogamous and watched females cooperate at controlling the young females and their contacts with their male mates.

The best way to get a disgusted look from a woman is to tell them about their breeding cycle. They travel inland looking for fast flowing rivers with islands. They mate and as soon as the eggs are laid the male takes off for the coast, leaving the female to raise the young. When mature enough the rejoin the males on the west coast, presumably communicating vigorously their feelings of being abandoned, but the following year do the same thing.

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I'm willing to call this bat-talk "communication sounds." Linguists avoid calling this sort of thing (including non-auditory, such as bee dances) "language," due to the highly restricted range of message content. So it's not just that they can't form relative clauses...

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