Three-dimensional auditory localization in the echolocating bat

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2016 Dec;41:78-86. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2016.08.002. Epub 2016 Aug 31.


Echolocating bats exhibit accurate three-dimensional (3D) auditory localization to avoid obstacles and intercept prey. The bat achieves high spatial resolution through a biological sonar system. Key features of the bat's sonar system are (1) high frequency, directional echolocation signals; (2) high frequency hearing; (3) mobile ears; and (4) measurement of distance from the time delay between sonar emission and echo reception. The bat's sonar receiver is a standard mammalian auditory system that computes azimuth from inter-aural differences and elevation from spectral filtering by the ear [1-3]. Target range is computed from echo arrival time [4,5], and the bat auditory system contains neurons that show echo delay-tuned responses to pulse-echo pairs [6]. Ultimately, information about sound source azimuth, elevation and range converge to create a unified representation of 3D space.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Echolocation
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Sound Localization / physiology*