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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Classification of human breathing sounds by the common vampire bat, Desmodus rotundus

Udo Gröger and Lutz Wiegrebe*

Author Affiliations

Department Biologie II der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Großhadernerstr. 2, D-82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany

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BMC Biology 2006, 4:18  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-4-18

Published: 16 June 2006



The common vampire bat Desmodus rotundus is one of three bat species that feed exclusively on the blood of mammals often more than 1000 times its size. Vampire bats even feed on human blood. Moreover, they tend to feed on the same individual over consecutive nights.


Using psychoacoustical methods, we show that vampire bats can recognize individual humans by their breathing sounds. Accompanying psychoacoustical experiments using the same stimuli and procedure but with human listeners show that even these trained and instructed listeners were unable to achieve the vampire bats' performance under the most difficult conditions, where the breathing sounds had been recorded under physical strain.


It is suggested that vampire bats can make use of an individual acoustic signature imposed on breathing sounds in a way similar to that in which we identify humans by their vocalizations.