A Study of Mexican Free-Tailed Bat Chirp Syllables: Bayesian Functional Mixed Models for Nonstationary Acoustic Time Series

Josue G. Martinez, Kirsten M. Bohn, Raymond J. Carroll, Jeffrey S. Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


We describe a new approach to analyze chirp syllables of free-tailed bats from two regions of Texas in which they are predominant: Austin and College Station. Our goal is to characterize any systematic regional differences in the mating chirps and assess whether individual bats have signature chirps. The data are analyzed by modeling spectrograms of the chirps as responses in a Bayesian functional mixed model. Given the variable chirp lengths, we compute the spectrograms on a relative time scale interpretable as the relative chirp position, using a variable window overlap based on chirp length. We use 2D wavelet transforms to capture correlation within the spectrogram in our modeling and obtain adaptive regularization of the estimates and inference for the regions-specific spectrograms. Our model includes random effect spectrograms at the bat level to account for correlation among chirps from the same bat, and to assess relative variability in chirp spectrograms within and between bats. The modeling of spectrograms using functional mixed models is a general approach for the analysis of replicated nonstationary time series, such as our acoustical signals, to relate aspects of the signals to various predictors, while accounting for between-signal structure. This can be done on raw spectrograms when all signals are of the same length, and can be done using spectrograms defined on a relative time scale for signals of variable length in settings where the idea of defining correspondence across signals based on relative position is sensible.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)514-526
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Statistical Association
Issue number502
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes

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