Bats are that ugly guy at karaoke who, while singing the male AND female parts of Evanescence’s “Bring Me To Life” a decade after it was cool, suddenly becomes totally hot. That is to say, they aren’t the cutest creatures in the animal kingdom, but they know how to work what they got — at least when they get to show off their vocal chops. Or so says new research published in Animal Behavior.
Bat expert and Texas A&M associate professor Mike Smotherman chased bats around the college campus for three years, eagerly taping their songs (which one imagines sound like amateur beat-boxing) and studying them. He found that males are not just humming the bat version of “The Piña Colada Song” on repeat — once a ladybat has inclined her ear, the male bat will switch things up to make sure she stays intrigued. According to Nature World News:
“These bats can fly very fast, almost 30 feet per second,” Smotherman explained. “They only have about one-tenth of a second to get the females’ attention.
“We learned that they use a very specific song to grab the female’s attention as she flies by the roost. Once a bat joins their roost, the males mix up their songs, possibly to keep the females entertained long enough for mating to begin.”
Hmm, one-tenth of a second to get a lady’s attention. What other species is that true of? I digress.
And I wasn’t making up the part about them being ugly. Presumably they look more appealing to other bats than they do to us, but bats don’t have a lot going for them in the looks department — no bright colors, no fancy plumage. There’s a reason it’s called “peacocking” and not “batting” (although, OK, “batting your eyelashes” does confuse matters):
One explanation for why the bats are such vociferous singers is that, unlike songbirds, which have brightly colored feathers that can be used to attract a mate, the bats are not brilliantly plumed.
“Most other animals rely upon visual cues to attract a mate, such as birds having brightly colored feathers,” Smotherman added. “With bats, it’s all about sounds, which may be why bats use singing more than other mammals.”
Iggy Pop, Shane MacGowan, and Lemmy from Motorhead all reportedly went “DUH” in unison when they heard the news.