Simmons, James A. Walter S. Hunter Laboratory of Psychology, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.
Last reviewed:January 2020
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- Echolocation sounds
- Auditory images
- Frequency-modulated images
- Constant-frequency images
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The biological sonar that bats, toothed whales, and certain other animals use to navigate without the visual system. Echolocation, or biosonar, is the physiological process that certain animals use to locate objects by reflected sound, primarily in order to navigate or find prey. Several different groups of animals have evolved the ability to perceive objects by emitting sounds and hearing the echoes that the objects reflect to their ears. The locations and characteristics of the objects are represented by acoustic properties of the echoes, and the ears and auditory systems of these animals act as the sonar receiver. The sense of hearing is specialized for converting echo information into displays of objects, which are perceived as acoustic images that guide the animal's behavior. The best-known examples of echolocating animals are bats (Microchiroptera) [Fig. 1] and toothed whales (including dolphins and porpoises). However, several other kinds of mammals (some shrews and rats) and birds (oilbirds and cave swiftlets) also can echolocate. See also: Bioacoustics, animal; Cetacea; Chiroptera; Ear (vertebrate); Echo; Neurobiology; Origin and evolution of echolocation in bats; Phonoreception; Sensation; Sense organ; Sonar; Sound
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