Bats Share Something Big With Death Metal Singers

Study cites creatures' 'tremendous' 7-octave vocal range that even surpasses Mariah Carey's, Prince's
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 2, 2022 12:10 PM CST
If You Think Mariah Can Sing, You Haven't Heard These Bats
Stock photo of a Daubenton's bat.   (Getty Images/Paul Colley)

If you remain impressed (and you should) by the multioctave vocal range shown by Mariah Carey, Axl Rose, and the late Prince, there's a group of crooners that may awe you even more. A new study out of the University of Southern Denmark points to the "tremendous" vocal range of a certain species of bat, with a particularly special ability that would make frontmen for death-metal bands proud. In their research published Tuesday in the PLOS Biology journal, Coen Elemans and his team sought to study the different sounds bats make when using echolocation, a process that taps into reflected sound to help the bats locate objects and navigate in the dark.

To carry out their experiment, the researchers extracted the larynxes, or voice boxes, of five Daubenton's bats, which are native to Asia and Europe. The scientists applied airflow to the voice boxes to mimic real breathing and used high-speed cameras to record the voice boxes' vibrations. What they found was that these bats use various parts of their larynx to achieve an impressive seven-octave vocal range. For context, most humans can claim a max of four octaves, while exceptional specimens like Rose and Carey boast five octaves; Prince was said by some to have been able to sing notes across six octaves, per the Washington Post.

The scientists discovered something else that was perhaps just as interesting: The bats use their false vocal cords, a little-accessed part of the larynx, to emit low-frequency sounds that very few humans make. The people who do use this rare technique? Death-metal singers and Mongolian throat singers, per a release, though it's a technique that can damage singers' vocal cords if they don't use it properly. As for what those metal-adjacent growls might mean coming from the bats, scientists need to do more research. "Some seem aggressive, some may be an expression of annoyance, and some may have a very different function. We don't know yet," study co-author Lasse Jakobsen says in the release. (More bats stories.)

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