Echolocation in dolphins with a dolphin-bat comparison

Whitlow W.L. Au (1997). Echolocation in dolphins with a dolphin-bat comparison. Bioacoustics, Volume 8 (1-2): 137 -162

Dolphins possess a highly sophisticated auditory system and a keen capability for echolocation. Signals are emitted in the form of high intensity, short duration, broadband exponentially decaying pulses. The frequency spectra of echolocation signals used by many dolphins are dependent on the output intensity of the signals and not on any fine tuning by the animals. When the output intensity is low, the center frequency of the click tends to be low. As the output intensity increases, the center frequency also tends to increase. The pulses propagate from the dolphin's melon in a relatively narrow beam, and echoes are received via the lower jaw, with a slightly wider beam. Echolocating dolphins can detect targets at ranges of approximately 100 plus meters, depending on the size of the targets. Target discrimination experiments have shown that dolphins can discriminate the shape, size, material composition and internal structure of targets from the echoes. The broadband, short duration properties of the signal allow the echoes to have high temporal resolution, so that within the structure of the echoes a considerable amount of information on the properties of the target can be conveyed. A brief comparison between the bat and dolphin sonar system will also be made. Bats typically emit much longer signals and a wider variety of different types of signals than dolphins. Signals used by some bats are suited to detecting Doppler shift, whereas the dolphin signal is designed to be tolerant of Doppler effects.


dolphin echolocation, bat echolocation, echolocation signals, target detection, target discrimination, detection threshold, discrimination threshold