John Ratcliffe



My students and I study the auditory neuroethology and cognitive ecology of echolocating bats, focusing on acoustic signal production and reception for the purposes of locating prey and discriminating good food from bad. We also study the design and evolution of hearing and defensive signals in moths and other insects with bat-detecting ears.         

On-going areas of investigation include dynamic control of biosonar beam shape and information update in aerial hawking bats, brain evolution and cognitive specializations across bats as related to foraging and migration, and the origin and maintenance of anti-bat defensive mechanisms in eared moths and other insects. We use an integrated biopsychological approach spanning different organizational levels, from single-cell recordings of auditory activity in insects to community-wide comparative analyses of multiple predator, multiple prey interactions. Recently, we have also begun to investigate the underlying mechanisms of echolocation in Oilbirds and porpoises.


Selected Publications

Jakobsen, L., Ratcliffe, J. M., Surlykke, A. (2013) Convergent acoustic field of view in echolocating bats. Nature 493, 93-96.
Elemans, C. P. H., Mead, A. F., Jakobsen, L., Ratcliffe, J. M. (2011). Superfast muscles set maximum call rate in echolocating bats. Science 333, 1885-1888.
Ratcliffe, J. M., Fullard, J. H., Arthur, B. J., Hoy, R. R. (2011). Adaptive auditory risk assessment in the dogbane tiger moth when pursued by bats. Proceedings B 278, 364-370.
Ratcliffe, J. M., Nydam, M. L. (2008). Multimodal warning signals for a multiple predator world. Nature 455, 96-99.