Hearing by Whales and Dolphins

Volume 12 of the series Springer Handbook of Auditory Research pp 364-408

Echolocation in Dolphins

  • Whitlow W. L. Au

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Echolocation is the process by which an organism projects acoustic signals in order to obtain a sense of its surroundings from the echoes it receives. In a general sense, any animal with a capability to hear can echolocate by emitting sounds and listening to the echoes. A person in an empty room can gain an idea of the size and shape of the room by emitting sounds and listening to the echoes from the different walls. However, in this chapter echolocation is used in a more specific sense in which an animal has a very specialized capability to determine the presence of objects considerably smaller than itself, discriminate between various objects, recognize specific objects, and localize objects in three-dimensional space (determining range and azimuth). Dolphins and bats have this specialized capability of echolocation.