"Importantly, our method used the echoes without inferring the location or identity of objects, such as plants and trees, at each site," noted study co-author Dieter Vanderelst, of the University of Antwerp, in a statement.
"In other words," he said, "the data support our hypothesis that bats can recognize places by remembering how they sound, rather than how they appear through the animals' 3-D sonar imaging."
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The types of terrain over which their artificial bat "flew" varied between lush, leafy parks and gardens in the UK and stony, more spacious lands of a park in Israel.
The different terrain setups helped the scientists observe that stronger, more recognizable features, such as boulders in the park in Israel, returned more recognizable echo signatures and that such features could serve as landmarks for the animals on their journeys.
"With these new insights in mind," said Vanderelst, "our aim is to try and piece together the entire puzzle of the navigation tendencies and capabilities in bats."
Findings of the study have been published in the journal eLife.
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