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J Acoust Soc Am. 2010 Dec;128(6):3788-98. doi: 10.1121/1.3504707.

Spatial perception and adaptive sonar behavior.

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Department of Psychology, Institute for Systems Research, University of Maryland, 1147 Biology/Psychology Building, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA.


Bat echolocation is a dynamic behavior that allows for real-time adaptations in the timing and spectro-temporal design of sonar signals in response to a particular task and environment. To enable detailed, quantitative analyses of adaptive sonar behavior, echolocation call design was investigated in big brown bats, trained to rest on a stationary platform and track a tethered mealworm that approached from a starting distance of about 170 cm in the presence of a stationary sonar distracter. The distracter was presented at different angular offsets and distances from the bat. The results of this study show that the distance and the angular offset of the distracter influence sonar vocalization parameters of the big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus. Specifically, the bat adjusted its call duration to the closer of two objects, distracter or insect target, and the magnitude of the adjustment depended on the angular offset of the distracter. In contrast, the bat consistently adjusted its call rate to the distance of the insect, even when this target was positioned behind the distracter. The results hold implications for understanding spatial information processing and perception by echolocation.

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