Research interests

  • Sensory and behavioural ecology
  • Pollination biology and evolution of floral signals
  • Bioacoustics and echolocation
  • Bioinspired sonar sensing



Scientific projects

My main research interest is the sensory ecology of pollination i.e. the echo acoustic perception of flowers by glossphagine bats and the echo acoustic adaptations of bat-pollinated flowers. Flower signals reflect, to a large degree, adaptations to the sensory capabilities of their pollinators. In chiropterophilous (bat-pollinated) plants, flowers may possess structures that emit echoes in a way that is particularly conspicuous to echolocating bats. So far, only very few plant species have been examined in this respect. With a mobile setup to measure flower echoes I examine the directional reflection properties of bat-pollinated flowers and their bird or insect-pollinated counterparts. So far I have collected echoes of more than 65 plant species and there are some intriguing surprises.
On the other side I'm also interested in adaptations of flower visiting bats and the physiological constraints of feeding on nectar. Together with colleagues from the IZW (Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin) we investigate how the mammalian physiology deals with a high sugar diet.
At the moment I'm involved the ChiRoPing Project, an interdisciplinary EU-funded project investigating how bats really use their sonar, and imitating this accurately on a robotic base. Together with colleagues we try to shed light on the mechanisms of prey detection in highly cluttered space. We are investigating the acoustic scenarios of the foraging behaviour of the insectivorus bat Micronycteris microtis, and the piscivourous bat Noctilio leporinus.

More information




  • Dr. Ralph Simon
  • Institute of Experimental Ecology
  • University of Ulm
  • Albert Einstein Allee 11
  • D 89069 Ulm, Germany
  • Tel. +49 (0)731 50 22691
  • Fax +49 (0)731 50 22683
  • Office: M25/5, 5201