Eight-choice sound localization by manatees: performance abilities and head related transfer functions

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2015 Feb;201(2):249-59. doi: 10.1007/s00359-014-0973-4. Epub 2014 Dec 23.


Two experiments investigated the ability and means by which two male Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) may determine the direction of a sound source. An eight-choice discrimination paradigm was used to determine the subjects' sound localization abilities of five signal conditions covering a range of frequencies, durations, and levels. Subjects performed above the 12.5% chance level for all broadband frequencies and were able to localize sounds over a large level range. Errors were typically located to either side of the signal source location when presented in the front 180° but were more dispersed when presented from locations behind the subject. Front-to-back confusions were few and accuracy was greater when signals originated from the front 180°. Head-related transfer functions were measured to determine if frequencies were filtered by the manatee body to create frequency-specific interaural level differences (ILDs). ILDs were found for all frequencies as a function of source location, although they were largest with frequencies above 18 kHz and when signals originated to either side of the subjects. Larger ILDs were found when the signals originated behind the subjects. A shadowing-effect produced by the body may explain the relatively low occurrence of front-back confusions in the localization study.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Head
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Sound Localization*
  • Trichechus manatus*