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J Acoust Soc Am. 2004 Dec;116(6):3701-12.

A numerical study of the role of the tragus in the big brown bat.

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The Maersk Institute, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, DK-5230 Odense M, Denmark.


A comprehensive characterization of the spatial sensitivity of an outer ear from a big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) has been obtained using numerical methods and visualization techniques. Pinna shape information was acquired through x-ray microtomography. It was used to set up a finite-element model of diffraction from which directivities were predicted by virtue of forward wave-field projections based on a Kirchhoff integral formulation. Digital shape manipulation was used to study the role of the tragus in detailed numerical experiments. The relative position between tragus and pinna aperture was found to control the strength of an extensive asymmetric sidelobe which points in a frequency-dependent direction. An upright tragus position resulted in the strongest sidelobe sensitivity. Using a bootstrap validation paradigm, the results were found to be robust against small perturbations of the finite-element mesh boundaries. Furthermore, it was established that a major aspect of the tragus effect (position dependence) can be studied in a simple shape model, an obliquely truncated horn augmented by a flap representing the tragus. In the simulated wave field around the outer-ear structure, strong correlates of the tragus rotation were identified, which provide a direct link to the underlying physical mechanism.

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