Q:

What animals use echolocation?

A:

Animals that use echolocation include bats, dolphins, whales, shrews and certain birds. These animals use echolocation to hunt for food and find their way in the dark.

Echolocation is the process of using sound waves and echoes to navigate places — particularly dark environments. Animals emit ultra-high frequency sounds and listen to the echoes to locate and determine the size and shape of objects around them. They use echolocation not only for navigation and finding food but also for orientation and social interactions.

Bats transmit sound waves through the mouth or nose. They are capable of identifying extremely thin objects, such as a strand of human hair, in dark environments. Bats avoid flying into things, and they catch their prey quickly through echolocation. They like to eat insects as small as mosquitoes.

A few species of shrews and two types of birds are also believed to use echolocation. Moreover, dolphins and toothed whales use it for orientation and navigation. They use echolocation to identify objects in the water, communicate with each other and search for food in dark areas.

To create sounds during echolocation, dolphins and toothed whales produce a fast series of clicks containing a vast range of frequencies. Their head has a fat-filled organ known as a melon, which serves as a lens for sound waves. Dolphins and toothed whales also have a fat-filled cavity in the lower jaw that receives the sounds they produce during echolocation.


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