Animal echolocation

A depiction of the ultrasound signals emitted by a bat, and the echo from a nearby object

Echolocation, also called bio sonar, is a biological active sonar used by several animal groups, both in the air and underwater. Echolocating animals emit calls and listen to the echoes of those calls that return from various objects near them. They use these echoes to locate and identify the objects. Echolocation is used for navigation, foraging, and hunting prey.

Echolocation calls can be frequency modulated (FM, varying in pitch during the call) or constant frequency (CF). FM offers precise range discrimination to localize the prey, at the cost of reduced operational range. CF allows both the prey's velocity and its movements to be detected by means of the Doppler effect. FM may be best for close, cluttered environments, while CF may be better in open environments or for hunting while perched.

Echolocating animals include mammals, especially odontocetes (toothed whales) and some bat species, and, using simpler forms, species in other groups such as shrews. A few bird species in two cave-dwelling bird groups echolocate, namely cave swiftlets and the oilbird.

Some prey animals that are hunted by echolocating bats take active countermeasures to avoid capture. These include predator avoidance, attack deflection, and the use of ultrasonic clicks which have evolved multiple functions including aposematism, mimicry of chemically defended species, and echolocation jamming.

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