Animal Sonar pp 521-534 | Cite as

Natural History Aspects of Marine Mammal Echolocation: Feeding Strategies and Habitat

  • William E. Evans
  • Frank T. Awbrey
Part of the NATO ASI Science book series (NSSA, volume 156)


The state of knowledge of echolocation in marine mammals and cetaceans in particular has been reviewed effectively in recent years (Wood and Evans, 1980; Watkins and Wartzok, 1985). Both of these reviews reveal that most efforts are still directed toward biophysics rather than the natural history, biological, and functional aspects. At the First Animal Sonar Conference in 1966, Donald Griffin and others asked researchers working with cetaceans how echolocation is used in navigation or feeding. Unfortunately 20 years later these two “obvious” uses of this extraordinary capability are still understood mainly by inference. The “Scylla” paradox described in Wood and Evans (1980), indicated that a dolphin deprived of vision can use directional hearing rather than active acoustic scanning to detect and capture moving, avoiding prey. This use of listening (“passive sonar”) has been well studied in bats (Fiedler et al., 1980), but not considered, in print at least, for use by marine mammals. That is changing. Recent tests by Sonafrank, Elsner, and Wartzok (1983) demonstrated that a spotted seal could use vision and listening to find ice holes and to navigate.


Marine Mammal Killer Whale Bottlenose Dolphin Harbor Porpoise Finless Porpoise 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Au, W. W. L., Penner, R. H., and Kadane, J., 1982, Acoustic behavior of echolocating Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 71: 1269–1275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Au, W. W. L., Floyd, R. W., Penner, R. H., and Murchison, A. E., 1974, Measurement of echolocation signals of the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, Montague, in open waters, J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 56: 1280–1290.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Au, W. W. L., and Turl, C. W., 1983, Target detection in reverberation by an echolocating Atlantic bottlenose dolphin ( Tursiops truncatus ), J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 73: 1676–1681.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Au, W. W. L., and Martin, D. W., 1983, Insights into dolphin sonar discrimination capabilities from broadband sonar discrimination exp@riments with human subjects, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. Suppl. 1, 74: S73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Awbrey, F. T., Norris, J. C., Hubbard, A. B., and Evans, W. E., 1979, The bioacoustics of the Dallis porpoise-salmon drift net interaction, Technical Rept. 79–120, Hubbs Sea-World Research Institute, San Diego.Google Scholar
  6. Awbrey, F. T., Thomas, J. T., Evans, W. E., and Kastelein, R. A. 1986, Hearing threshold measurements and responses of belukha whales to playbacks of underwater drilling noise, in: “Underwater Drilling--Measurement of Sound Levels and Their Effects on Belukha Whales,” API Publication No. 4438, American Petroleum Institute, 1220 L Street Northwest, Washington, D.C. 20005.Google Scholar
  7. Barham, E. G1970, Deep-Sea Fishes: Lethargy and Vertical Distribution of Fishes and Cephalopods, in: “Proceedings of an International Symposium on Biological Sound Scattering in the Ocean,” G. B. Farquhar, ed., U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington.Google Scholar
  8. Bastian, J. R., 1967, The transmission of arbitrary environmental information between bottlenose dolphins, in: “Animal Sonar Systems: Biology and Bionics,” R.-G. Busnel, ed., Laboratoire de Physiologie Acoustique, Joy-en-Josas, France.Google Scholar
  9. Bel’kovich, V.M., Borisov, V. I., Gurevich, V.S. & Krushinskaya, N.L. 1969, The ability of echolocation in Delphinus delphis, (In Russian). Zoologicheskii Zhurnal, 48: 876–884. (English translation JPRS 48780).Google Scholar
  10. Caldwell, D. K., and Caldwell, M. C., 1972, Senses and Communications, in: “Mammals of the Sea, Biology and Medicine,” S.H. Ridgway, ed., Chas C. Thomas, Springfield, Ill.Google Scholar
  11. Caldwell, M. C., and Caldwell, D. K., 1968, Vocalization of naive captive dolphins in small groups, Science, 159: 1121–1123.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Caldwell, M. C., and Caldwell, D. K., 1972, Behavior of Marine Mammals, in: “Mammals of the Sea, Biology and Medicine,” S.H. Ridgway, ed., Chas C. Thomas, Springfield, Ill.Google Scholar
  13. Carder, D. A. and Ridgway, S. H., 1983, Apparent echolocation by a 60 day old bottlenosed dolphin, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. Suppl. 1, 74: S74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chen, P., Peilin, L., Renjun, L., Kejie, L., 1979, Distribution, Ecology, Behavior and Conservation of the Dolphins of the Middle Reaches of Changjiang (Yangtze) River ( Wuhan-Yueyang ), Invest. Cetacea, 9: 87–103.Google Scholar
  15. Evans, W. E., 1973, Echolocation by marine delphinids and one species of fresh-water dolphin, J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 54: 191–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Evans, W. E., 1982, Distribution and differentiation of stock of Delphinus delphis Linnaeus in the northeastern Pacific, Mammals in the Seas, FAO Fisheries series no. 5, 4: 45.Google Scholar
  17. Evans, W. E., Awbrey, F. T., and Hackbarth, H., In press, High frequency pulses produced by free ranging Commerson’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii) compared to those of phocoenids, IWC special report on Commerson’s dolphin.Google Scholar
  18. Fiedler, J., Habersetzer, J., and Vogler, B., 1980, in: “Animal Sonar Systems,” R.-G Busnel and J. F. Fish, eds., Plenum Press, N.Y.Google Scholar
  19. Greene, C. R., 1981, Underwater acoustic transmission loss and ambient noise in Arctic regions, in: N. M. Peterson, ed., “The Question of Sound from Icebreaker Operations: Proceedings of a Workshop,” Arctic Pilot Project, Petro-Canada.Google Scholar
  20. Hackbarth, H., Awbrey, F. T., and Evans, W. E., 1986, High frequency sounds in Commerson’s dolphin, Cephalorhynchus commersonii, Tech. Rept. 86–193, Hubbs Sea-World Research Institute, San Diego.Google Scholar
  21. Hall, J. D., and Johnson, C. S., 1971, Auditory threshold of a killer whale Orcinus orca Linneaus, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 51, 515–517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Herald, E. S., Brownell, R. L. Jr., Frye, F. L., Morris, E. J., Evans, W. E., and Scott, A. B., 1969, Blind river dolphin: first side-swimming cetacean, Science, 166: 1408–1410.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kamminga, C. and Wiersma, H., 1981, Investigations on cetacean sonar II. Acoustic similarities and differences in odontocete sonar signals, Aq. Mammals 8: 41–62.Google Scholar
  24. Leatherwood, S., 1975, Some observations of feeding behavior of bottle-nosed dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Northern Gulf of Mexico and (Tursiops cf gilli) off Southern California, and Nayarit, Mexico, Mar. Fish. Rev., 37 (9): 10–16.Google Scholar
  25. Legatt, L. J., Merklinger, H. M., and Kennedy, J. L., 1981, LNG carrier underwater noise study for Baffin Bay, in: N. M. Peterson, ed., “The Question of Sound from Icebreaker Operations: Proceedings of a Workshop,” Arctic Pilot Project, Petro-Canada.Google Scholar
  26. Norris, K. S., 1969, The echolocation of marine mammals, in: “The Biology of Marine Mammals”, H. T. Andersen, ed., Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  27. Norris, K. S., and Dohl, T. P., 1980, Behavior of the Hawaiian spinner dolphin, Stenella longirostris, Fish. Bull., 77: 821.Google Scholar
  28. Perrin, W. F., Warner, R. R., Fiscus, C. H., and Bolts, D. B., 1973 Stomach contents of porpoise, Stenella spp., and yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares, in mixed-species aggregations, Fish. Bull., 71: 1077–1092.Google Scholar
  29. Pilleri, G., Peixun, C.,Peilin, L., Renjun, L., and Kejie, L., 1980, Distribution, ecology, behavior and conservation of the dolphins of the middle reaches of Changjiang (Yangtze) River ( Wuhan-Yueyang ), Invest. Cetacea, 10: 87–103.Google Scholar
  30. Penner, R.H. and Murchison, A.E., 1970, Experimentally demonstrated echo-location in the Amazon River porpoise Inia geofrensis (Blainville), Proc. 7th Ann. Conf. Bio. Sonar and Diving Mam., 7: 17–38.Google Scholar
  31. Purves, P.E. and Pilleri, G.E., 1983, “Echolocation in whales and dolphins”, Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  32. Renouf, D. and Davis, M. B., 1982, Evidence that seals may use echolocation, Nature, 300: 635.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schevill, W. E. and Watkins, W. A., 1966, Sound structure and directionality in Orcinus (killer whale). Zoologica, 51: 71–76.Google Scholar
  34. Scronce, B.L., and Johnson C.S., 1975, Bistatic target detection by a bottlenose porpoise, J. Acoust. Soc. Amer., 59: 1001–1002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sonafrank, N., Elsner, R., and Wartzok, D., 1983, Under-ice navigation by the spotted seal, Phoca largha, Abstract, Fifth Biennial Conf. on the Biol. of Mar. Mammals, Boston, November 1983.Google Scholar
  36. Thomas, J. A., Fisher, S. R., Evans, W. E., and Awbrey, F.T., 1982, Ultra-sonic vocalizations of leopard seals ( Hydrurga leptonyx ), Antarctic Journal, 17: 186.Google Scholar
  37. Thomas, J., Fisher, S. R., Yohe, E., Garver, A., Spafford, J., and Peterson, J., 1986, Experimental verification of the echolocation abilities of a false killer whale Pseudorca crassidens. Tech Rept. 86–197, Hubbs Marine Research Institute, San Diego.Google Scholar
  38. Voronov, V. H. and Stosman, I. T., 1986, Electrical responses of the stem structures of the acoustic system of Phocoena phocoena to tonal stimuli, in: “The Electrophysiology of the Sensory Systems of Marine Mammals”, V. E. Sokolov, ed., Nauk, Moscow (in Russian).Google Scholar
  39. Wartzok, D., Schusterman, R.J., and Gailey-Phillips, J., 1984, Letter to the editor, Nature, 308: 753.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Watkins, W. A., and Schevill, W. E., 1980, Characteristic features of the underwater sounds of Cephalorhynchus commersonii, J. Mamm., 61: 738–739.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Watkins, W. A., and Wartzok, D., 1985, Sensory biophysics of marine mammals, Mar. Mamm. Sci., 1: 219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wood, F. G. and W. E. Evans, 1980, Adaptiveness and ecology of echolocation in toothed whales, pp. 381–425, in: “Animal Sonar Systems”, R. G. Busnel and J. F. Fish, eds., Plenum Press, New York.Google Scholar
  43. Zbinden, K. 1982, “Das Sonarsystem der Zahnwale,” Universitaet Bern, Switzerland.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • William E. Evans
    • 1
  • Frank T. Awbrey
    • 2
  1. 1.Hubbs Marine Research Inst.San DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentSan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

Personalised recommendations