By Arpita Pandey
Have you ever seen a bat catch food in the dark? Of Course you haven’t, it’s pitch dark! Then how can bats fly and find prey in the darkness? They use a special technique called echolocation to locate animals and objects. This technique is also prevalent in dolphins and killer whales.
Echolocation helps determine the location of objects using reflected sounds. This allows animals to move around and hunt. They are able to identify friends, enemies and prey. Echolocation has been an adaptation that has evolved in all types of animals. In dolphins and whales it allows these mammals to see in muddy water and dark ocean depths, as well as chasing food such as squid.
How is echolocation used? As previously mentioned, echolocation has been an important adaptation in dolphins, and dolphins use this skill by bouncing off high pitched sounds off underwater objects. In more simple terms, it's like shouting and listening to the echoes. When the echolocation call happens to come across something, the reflected sound is then picked up through the animal's lower jaw and then passed to its ears. This helps them determine an object's direction, distance, size, and speed, among other things.
Bats on the other hand, create their sound in their larynxes, also known as their voice box, and send them out through their mouths. Just before calling, they turn off their middle ear so they aren’t deafened. Their call helps them locate objects up to 5 meters away and work out the objects size and hardness. Echolocation calls are usually too high pitched for a human ear to pick up, but we can hear clicks from some bats, like the spotted bat.
There are some technologies that emit actions similar to echolocation. For example, a submarine uses a sonar system to navigate. This device sends out pulses of sounds to detect echoes. Also, a type of technology that is used in medicine is called an ultrasound, which takes the sound waves in account in order to take pictures inside the body.
Overall, echolocation has proven to be an important trait adopted by many mammals in order to survive and flourish in their environments. It has provided many with the tools necessary to thrive and of course, have a good meal!
Wilke, Carolyn. “Scientists Say: Echolocation.” Science News for Students, 23 Apr. 2020, www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/scientists-say-echolocation.
Price, Jo. “What Is Echolocation and Which Animals Use It?” Discover Wildlife, www.discoverwildlife.com/animal-facts/mammals/what-is-echolocation/.