Bats mimic a swarm of hornets to escape when seized by owls

Employing what is called Batesian mimicry, bats mimic a swarm of hornets or wasps when seized by an owl in order to perplex their attacker and give them a split second to release themselves and escape. Researchers from Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II in Portici, Italy studied greater mouse-eared bats. Batesian mimicry occurs when animals who don’t have a defence imitate the warning signals of harmful species.

Greater mouse-eared bat
Greater mouse-eared bat. Photo: Pixabay

I think you will find that Batesian mimicry also occurs in predators as they can also be prey. This is because domestic cats do it with their hiss. This is the hiss of a snake. And the tabby cat when curled up looks like a snake. So Batesian mimicry is not confined to harmless prey animals but to predators as well in my view. Although top predators won’t as they are never prey animals e.g., the tiger and lion.

Danilo Russo disagrees with me because he said: “In Bateson mimicry, a non-armed species imitates an armed one to deter predators. Imagine a bat that has been seized but not killed by the predator. Buzzing might deceive the predator for a fraction of a second-enough to fly away.”

It is reported that this the first time that a mammal has been found to use Bateson mimicry acoustically. I disagree with that too! The domestic cat hiss is acoustic mimicry of the snake by a predator. I think Danilo and the news media has got it wrong.

RELATED: When do cats learn to hiss?

It seems that the researchers discovered this form of mimicry by accident. Danilo said: “When we handled the bats to take them out of the net or process them, they invariably buzzed like wasps.”

They recorded the buzzing sounds and played them before owls to see their reaction. They consistently reacted to both the insect and the bat buzzes by moving away from the speaker.

In contrast, the sound of prey animals to the owl drew the owl in to the speaker. The research indicates that owls have been stung by hornets and bees or wasps before and have become wary of them. This information has been passed down in generations. It seems to have become inherited as part of their DNA.

This form of mimicry is one of many that we will see in nature used by vulnerable creatures or those that are not so vulnerable to help defend themselves against predators.

The research is published in the online journal Current Biology. I could not find the report but relied upon news media: The Times and Daily Mail.

Below are some more articles on bats.

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