Babbling is a production milestone in infant speech development. Evidence for babbling in nonhuman mammals is scarce, which has prevented cross-species comparisons. In this study, we investigated the conspicuous babbling behavior of Saccopteryx bilineata, a bat capable of vocal production learning. We analyzed the babbling of 20 bat pups in the field during their 3-month ontogeny and compared its features to those that characterize babbling in human infants. Our findings demonstrate that babbling in bat pups is characterized by the same eight features as babbling in human infants, including the conspicuous features reduplication and rhythmicity. These parallels in vocal ontogeny between two mammalian species offer future possibilities for comparison of cognitive and neuromolecular mechanisms and adaptive functions of babbling in bats and humans.

[original Abstract]

Mutter-Jungtier Paar der großen Sackflügelfledermaus Saccopteryx bilineata im Tagesquartier, Jungtier hängt am Bauch von der Mutter (Foto: Michael Stifter)

Original study:

Fernandez AA, Burchardt LS, Nagy M, Knörnschild M (2021): Babbling in a vocal learning bat resembles human infant babbling. Science 373(6557): 923-926. doi: 10.1126/science.abf9279

Baby bats babble like human infants