• 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.

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. Smotherman, M, Knörnschild, M, Smarsh, G, Bohn, K. The origins and diversity of bat songs. J. Comp. Physiol. A Neuroethol. Sens. Neural. Behav. Physiol. 2016; :. doi: 10.1007/s00359-016-1105-0. PubMed PMID:27350360 .
  2. Fernandez-Lima, FA, Debord, JD, Schweikert, EA, Della-Negra, S, Kellersberger, KA, Smotherman, M et al.. Surface characterization of biological nanodomains using NP-ToF-SIMS. Surf Interface Anal. 2013;45 (1):. doi: 10.1002/sia.4901. PubMed PMID:24163489 PubMed Central PMC3808454.
  3. Jarvis, J, Jackson, W, Smotherman, M. Groups of bats improve sonar efficiency through mutual suppression of pulse emissions. Front Physiol. 2013;4 :140. Epub 2013/6/13. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2013.00140. PubMed PMID:23781208 PubMed Central PMC3680708.
  4. Tressler, J, Schwartz, C, Wellman, P, Hughes, S, Smotherman, M. Regulation of bat echolocation pulse acoustics by striatal dopamine. J. Exp. Biol. 2011;214 (Pt 19):3238-47. doi: 10.1242/jeb.058149. PubMed PMID:21900471 PubMed Central PMC3168377.
  5. Schwartz, CP, Smotherman, MS. Mapping vocalization-related immediate early gene expression in echolocating bats. Behav. Brain Res. 2011;224 (2):358-68. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2011.06.023. PubMed PMID:21726584 PubMed Central PMC3159747.
  6. Jarvis, J, Bohn, KM, Tressler, J, Smotherman, M. A mechanism for antiphonal echolocation by Free-tailed bats. Anim Behav. 2010;79 (4):787-796. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2010.01.004. PubMed PMID:20419063 PubMed Central PMC2858338.
  7. Bohn, KM, Schmidt-French, B, Schwartz, C, Smotherman, M, Pollak, GD. Versatility and stereotypy of free-tailed bat songs. PLoS ONE. 2009;4 (8):e6746. Epub 2009/8/25. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006746. PubMed PMID:19707550 PubMed Central PMC2727915.
  8. Tressler, J, Smotherman, MS. Context-dependent effects of noise on echolocation pulse characteristics in free-tailed bats. J. Comp. Physiol. A Neuroethol. Sens. Neural. Behav. Physiol. 2009;195 (10):923-34. doi: 10.1007/s00359-009-0468-x. PubMed PMID:19672604 PubMed Central PMC2825556.
  9. Schwartz, C, Bartell, P, Cassone, V, Smotherman, M. Distribution of 2-[I]iodomelatonin binding in the brain of Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis). Brain Behav. Evol. 2009;73 (1):16-25. doi: 10.1159/000202987. PubMed PMID:19223684 PubMed Central PMC2825557.
  10. Bohn, KM, Smarsh, GS, and M. Smotherman (2013) Social Context Evokes Rapid Changes in Bat Song Syntax. Animal Behaviour, 85:1485-1491.
Search PubMed
Michael Smotherman

Michael Smotherman
Associate Professor

3258 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-3258

Office:
Biological Sciences Building West
Room 110
979-845-6504

Lab:
Biological Sciences Building West
Room 107
979-845-3454

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

Curriculum Vitae