Previous studies have shown that, during search flight in bats, wingbeat, respiration and echolocation are synchronised in a 1:1 relationship. An efficiently integrated locomotor-respiratory system enables bats to produce intense echolocation signals at little or no cost above that required for flight. In this study, we investigated the coupling of wingbeat with echolocation in the laboratory during approach flight in soprano pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) using high-speed digital video at 250 and 500 frames s(−)(1). We found that soprano pipistrelles most commonly produce single or double pulses per wingbeat. Single pulses per wingbeat occurred in two alternative positions: immediately before the end of the upstroke or after the start of the downstroke. Double pulses per wingbeat were emitted in the same wingbeat positions on the upstroke and the downstroke, as in single pulses per wingbeat. We suggest that, during approach flight, the coupling of more than one echolocation signal with a single wingbeat and expiratory cycle allows echolocation to remain energetically economic. When soprano pipistrelles approached a Perspex disc target, an increase in mean repetition rate was achieved by producing an extra pulse per wingbeat. Finally, we hypothesise that the bat's approach to potentially interesting targets in the same horizontal plane as it's flight path, i.e. during flapping flight, may be characterised by the production of double pulses per wingbeat, resulting in a unique pattern of echolocation pulse intervals.

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