Dolphin "packet" use during long-range echolocation tasks

J Acoust Soc Am. 2013 Mar;133(3):1796-810. doi: 10.1121/1.4788997.


When echolocating, dolphins typically emit a single broadband "click," then wait to receive the echo before emitting another click. However, previous studies have shown that during long-range echolocation tasks, they may instead emit a burst, or "packet," of several clicks, then wait for the packet of echoes to return before emitting another packet of clicks. The reasons for the use of packets are unknown. In this study, packet use was examined by having trained bottlenose dolphins perform long-range echolocation tasks. The tasks featured "phantom" echoes produced by capturing the dolphin's outgoing echolocation clicks, convolving the clicks with an impulse response to create an echo waveform, and then broadcasting the delayed, scaled echo to the dolphin. Dolphins were trained to report the presence of phantom echoes or a change in phantom echoes. Target range varied from 25 to 800 m. At ranges below 75 m, the dolphins rarely used packets. As the range increased beyond 75 m, two of the three dolphins increasingly produced packets, while the third dolphin instead utilized very high click repetition rates. The use of click packets appeared to be governed more by echo delay (target range) than echo amplitude.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Acoustics
  • Animals
  • Auditory Perception
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Bottle-Nosed Dolphin / physiology*
  • Bottle-Nosed Dolphin / psychology
  • Echolocation*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Time Factors
  • Vocalization, Animal*