Echolocation characteristics of free-swimming bottlenose dolphins during object detection and identification

J Acoust Soc Am. 2005 Apr;117(4 Pt 1):2308-17. doi: 10.1121/1.1867912.


A biosonar measurement tool (BMT) was created to investigate dolphin echolocation search strategies by recording echolocation clicks, returning echoes, and three-dimensional angular motion, velocity, and depth of free-swimming dolphins performing open-water target detections. Trial start and stop times, locations determined from a differential global positioning system (DGPS), and BMT motion and acoustic data were used to produce spatial and acoustic representations of the searches. Two dolphins (LUT, FLP) searched for targets lying on the seafloor of a bay environment while carrying the BMT. LUT searched rapidly (< 10 s), produced few clicks, and varied click-peak frequency (20-120 kHz); FLP searched relatively slowly (tens of seconds) and produced many hundreds of clicks with stereotypical frequency-dependent energy distributions dominating from 30-60 kHz. Dolphins amplified target echo returns by either increasing the click source level or reducing distance to the target but without reducing source level. The distribution of echolocation click-peak frequencies suggested a bias in the dominant frequency components of clicks, possibly due to mechanical constraints of the click generator. Prior training and hearing loss accommodation potentially explain differences in the search strategies of the two dolphins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication
  • Animals
  • Depth Perception*
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Dolphins*
  • Echolocation*
  • Exploratory Behavior
  • Male
  • Orientation*
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Swimming*