Biophysics of Sound Localization in Insects

  • Axel Michelsen
Part of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research book series (SHAR, volume 10)


Humans use two mechanisms for detecting the direction of sound waves, based on diffraction and time of arrival, respectively (Shaw 1974, Yost and Gourevitch 1987, Brown 1994). The presence of the body may disturb the sound wave so that the sound pressure at the surface of the body differs from that in the undisturbed sound wave (diffraction). The sound pressure at a particular position on the surface, for example, the location of an ear, varies with the direction of sound incidence. Diffraction occurs when the dimensions of the body (head) are larger than one-tenth the wavelength of the sound. The sound spectra at the two ears differ for most sound directions if the ears are some distance apart. It is thus possible for the brain to estimate the direction of the sound source by comparing the sound spectra at the two ears. This task is easier with broad-band sounds than with pure tones or narrow-band sounds.


Sound Pressure Sound Source Sound Localization Calling Song Sound Amplitude 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

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  • Axel Michelsen

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