The structure of echolocation calls, and the distance over which bats perceive their environment, varies with the amount of structural clutter through which they are flying. Clutter and species had significant effects on the frequency-time characteristics of search-phase echolocation calls of northern long-eared (Myotis septentrionalis) and little brown bats (M. lucifugus). We tested an a priori derived model that predicted the pattern of differences in echolocation call variable values among clutter categories would provide insight into the relative maximum distances that bat species could perceive using echolocation. Specifically, the model predicted that species adapted to flying and foraging in cluttered habitats would have a shorter maximum perceptual distance than species adapted to flying and foraging in uncluttered habitats. The results supported this model and suggest the clutter-adapted M. septentrionalis had a shorter maximum perceptual distance than M. lucifugus, a species known to forage in a variety of habitats but mainly in uncluttered areas (i.e., over water). Using calls as the sampling unit, a neural network correctly classified >94% of the echolocation calls to species in high clutter. In medium and low clutter, >82% of the calls were correctly classified to species; however >90% correct classification was achieved by leaving <30% of calls unclassified. Researchers should develop clutter-specific call libraries to improve species classification accuracy for echolocation calls.
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