A comparison of signal detection between an echolocating dolphin and an optimal receiver

J Comp Physiol A. 1989 Jan;164(4):451-8. doi: 10.1007/BF00610439.


An electronic simulated target apparatus was used in a two-experiment study to compare the target detection performance of an echolocating bottlenose dolphin with an optimal receiver. Random Gaussian noise with a relatively flat spectrum from 20 to 160 kHz was used as a masking source. Experiment I was conducted to establish a technique for estimating the echo energy-to-noise ratio, Ee/N, at the dolphin's threshold of detection. Dolphins typically vary the amplitude of their emitted signal over a large range making it difficult to estimate Ee/N. In the first part of experiment I, the simulated echo was a double click, the pulses separated by 200 microseconds, with each pulse being a replica of the dolphin's transmitted signal. A staircase psychophysical procedure was used to obtain the detection threshold, and the echo energy-to-noise ratio based on the highest amplitude click emitted per trial, (Ee/N)max, was determined at each reversal point. The second echo type consisted of one of the animal's echolocation clicks, previously measured, digitized and stored in an erasable programmable read-only memory (EPROM). The electronic target simulator was modified so that every time the dolphin emitted an echolocation signal, the EPROM was triggered to produce two pulses separated by 200 microseconds. On any trial, the EPROM signal was played back at a fixed amplitude, regardless of the amplitude of the dolphin's emitted signal. The Ee/N obtained with the EPROM signal at threshold was found to be 2.9 dB lower than (Ee/N)max obtained with the normal phantom target. Therefore an estimate of Ee/N can be obtained by subtracting 2.9 dB from (Ee/N)max.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dolphins / physiology*
  • Echolocation / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Male
  • Orientation / physiology*