Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 197, Issue 5, pp 475–490

Complex echo classification by echo-locating bats: a review


    • Department of NeurobiologyWeizmann Institute of Science
    • Animal Physiology, Institute of NeurobiologyUniversity of Tuebingen
  • Matthias O. Franz
    • Faculty of InformaticsUniversity of Applied Sciences
  • Peter Stilz
    • Animal Physiology, Institute of NeurobiologyUniversity of Tuebingen
  • Hans-Ulrich Schnitzler
    • Animal Physiology, Institute of NeurobiologyUniversity of Tuebingen

DOI: 10.1007/s00359-010-0584-7

Cite this article as:
Yovel, Y., Franz, M.O., Stilz, P. et al. J Comp Physiol A (2011) 197: 475. doi:10.1007/s00359-010-0584-7


Echo-locating bats constantly emit ultrasonic pulses and analyze the returning echoes to detect, localize, and classify objects in their surroundings. Echo classification is essential for bats’ everyday life; for instance, it enables bats to use acoustical landmarks for navigation and to recognize food sources from other objects. Most of the research of echo based object classification in echo-locating bats was done in the context of simple artificial objects. These objects might represent prey, flower, or fruit and are characterized by simple echoes with a single up to several reflectors. Bats, however, must also be able to use echoes that return from complex structures such as plants or other types of background. Such echoes are characterized by superpositions of many reflections that can only be described using a stochastic statistical approach. Scientists have only lately started to address the issue of complex echo classification by echo-locating bats. Some behavioral evidence showing that bats can classify complex echoes has been accumulated and several hypotheses have been suggested as to how they do so. Here, we present a first review of this data. We raise some hypotheses regarding possible interpretations of the data and point out necessary future directions that should be pursued.



Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010