Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 195, Issue 5, pp 463–472

Spatial unmasking in the echolocating Big Brown Bat, Eptesicus fuscus

  • Susan Sümer
  • Annette Denzinger
  • Hans-Ulrich Schnitzler
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00359-009-0424-9

Cite this article as:
Sümer, S., Denzinger, A. & Schnitzler, H. J Comp Physiol A (2009) 195: 463. doi:10.1007/s00359-009-0424-9


Masking affects the ability of echolocating bats to detect a target in the presence of clutter targets. It can be reduced by spatially separating the targets. Spatial unmasking was measured in a two-alternative-forced-choice detection experiment with four Big Brown Bats detecting a wire at 1 m distance. Depth dependent spatial unmasking was investigated by the bats detecting a wire with a diameter of 1.2 mm in front of a masker with a threshold distance of 11 cm behind the wire. For angle dependent spatial unmasking the masker was turned laterally, starting from its threshold position at 11 cm. With increasing masker angles the bats could detect thinner wires with diameters decreasing from 1.2 mm (target strength −36.8 dB) at 0° to 0.2 mm (target strength −63.0 dB) at 22°. Without masker, the bats detected wire diameters of 0.16 mm (target strength −66.2 dB), reached with masker positions beyond 23° (complete masking release). Analysis of the sonar signals indicated strategies in the echolocation behavior. The bats enhanced the second harmonics of their signals. This may improve the spatial separation between wire and masker due to frequency-dependent directionality increase of sound emission and echo reception.


EcholocationEptesicus fuscusDetectionSpatial unmaskingClutter





Sound pressure level


Peak equivalent sound pressure level


Target strength


Root mean square

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan Sümer
    • 1
  • Annette Denzinger
    • 1
  • Hans-Ulrich Schnitzler
    • 1
  1. 1.Lehrstuhl Tierphysiologie, Zoologisches InstitutUniversität TübingenTübingenGermany