Texas A&M University Department of Biology
  • A.B., 1989, Occidental College, Biology.
  • M.S., 1992, University of Maine, Zoology.
  • Ph.D., 1998, UCLA, Physiological Science.
  • Postdoctoral research: UCLA.

Joined the department in 2004.
Smotherman Lab Website

Associations: Faculty of Neuroscience, Texas A&M Institute for Neuroscience (TAMIN), Faculty of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Michael Smotherman

Michael Smotherman
Associate Professor

3258 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-3258

Biological Sciences Building West
Room 110

Biological Sciences Building West
Room 107

Fax: 979-845-2891
Email: msmotherman@bio.tamu.edu

Curriculum Vitae

Evolution and Neurobiology of Communication

Communication is an essential part of sociality, and an animal’s vocal communications provide a window into their cognitive capabilities, motivations, and behavioral ecology.  Communication is also a important model of sensorimotor neurobiology because vocalizations are the motor output of a sophisticated suite of brain pathways that integrate across multiple sensory modalities and time scales. Vocal communication systems are highly diverse because they have been shaped by intense natural and sexual selection. Studying the evolution of communication networks in the brain provides important insight into how environment and ecology molded the social brain.

Our lab studies bats because of their biosonar capabilities and their unusually broad repertoire of communication calls and songs. 

Echolocation provides an exciting model system for exploring how multiple brain pathways interact to control behavior on a millisecond time scale.  Our neural studies investigate the neurocircuits that guide delicate changes in sonar pulse acoustics.  Our behavioral studies of bats echolocating in groups has shed light on how they coordinate their sonar systems to minimize interference with one another.  This research has direct relevance to man-made sonar and wireless communications systems.

Singing by bats offers exiting new opportunities to young investigators to explore how mammals and birds converged upon a similar behavior via different neural mechanisms. Identifying and characterizing the functional neurocircuitry of the bat’s song production network is a major component of our research. 

Graduate student opportunities.  Students interested in pursuing the neuroethology of communication are encouraged to apply to our graduate training programs in Biology, Neuroscience or Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Contact Dr. Smotherman directly for more information.

  1. Bohn, KM, Smarsh, GS, and M. Smotherman (2013) Social Context Evokes Rapid Changes in Bat Song Syntax. Animal Behaviour, 85:1485-1491.
  2. Fernandez-Lima FA, Debord JD, Schweikert EA, Della-Negra S, Kellersberger KA & Smotherman M (2013) Surface characterization of biological nanodomains using NP-ToF-SIMS. Surf Interface Anal 45: Full text
  3. Jarvis J, Jackson W & Smotherman M (2013) Groups of bats improve sonar efficiency through mutual suppression of pulse emissions. Front Physiol 4:140 Full text
  4. Tressler J, Schwartz C, Wellman P, Hughes S & Smotherman M (2011) Regulation of bat echolocation pulse acoustics by striatal dopamine. J Exp Biol 214:3238-47 Full text
  5. Schwartz CP & Smotherman MS (2011) Mapping vocalization-related immediate early gene expression in echolocating bats. Behav Brain Res 224:358-68 Full text
  6. Jarvis J, Bohn KM, Tressler J & Smotherman M (2010) A mechanism for antiphonal echolocation by Free-tailed bats. Anim Behav 79:787-796 Full text
  7. Bohn KM, Schmidt-French B, Schwartz C, Smotherman M & Pollak GD (2009) Versatility and stereotypy of free-tailed bat songs. PLoS One 4:e6746 Full text
  8. Tressler J & Smotherman MS (2009) Context-dependent effects of noise on echolocation pulse characteristics in free-tailed bats. J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol 195:923-34 Full text
  9. Schwartz C, Bartell P, Cassone V & Smotherman M (2009) Distribution of 2-[I]iodomelatonin binding in the brain of Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis). Brain Behav Evol 73:16-25 Full text
  10. Smotherman M & Guillén-Servent A (2008) Doppler-shift compensation behavior by Wagner's mustached bat, Pteronotus personatus. J Acoust Soc Am 123:4331-9 Full text
  11. Schwartz C, Tressler J, Keller H, Vanzant M, Ezell S & Smotherman M (2007) The tiny difference between foraging and communication buzzes uttered by the Mexican free-tailed bat, Tadarida brasiliensis. J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol 193:853-63 Full text

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