Range discrimination by big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) using altered model echoes: implications for signal processing

J Acoust Soc Am. 2000 Jan;107(1):625-37. doi: 10.1121/1.428328.


The sonar emissions of two big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) were modeled to create a "normal" echolocation signal for each bat which was then used as an artificial echo to synthesize a phantom target. The bat's task was to indicate which of two phantom targets (presented singly) was the "near" target and which the "far" target. Threshold range discrimination at a nominal target distance of 80 cm was about 0.6 cm for both bats. The normal signal was then modified to change the relative energy in each harmonic, the signal duration, the curvature of the frequency sweep, the absolute frequency, the phase of the second and third harmonics relative to the first, or the Doppler shift of the signal. To determine which modifications affected ranging performance, the altered models were used in tests of range discrimination that were interleaved on a day-to-day basis with tests using the normal model. Of the 12 modifications tested, only those changing the curvature of the frequency sweep affected performance. This result appears not to be predicted by current models of echo processing in FM bats. Eptesicus may be able to compensate for certain types of distortions of a returning echo, an ability possibly related to Doppler tolerance or to the characteristics of the natural variation in a bat's emissions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Auditory Threshold / physiology
  • Chiroptera / physiology
  • Echolocation / physiology*
  • Female
  • Models, Biological
  • Time Factors
  • Ultrasonics