Sound localization in a predatory rodent, the northern grasshopper mouse (Onychomys leucogaster)

J Comp Psychol. 1988 Mar;102(1):66-71. doi: 10.1037/0735-7036.102.1.66.


A comparison of the ability of mammals to localize sound revealed that among the animals examined to date, none of the rodents have been able to localize as accurately as the carnivores. Because all of these rodents are prey animals, the question arises as to whether their poor localization acuity is a phyletic trait of Rodentia or whether it is a trait common to prey species that may be under less selective pressure than predators to localize sound accurately. To answer this question, sound localization acuity was determined in a species that is both predatory and a rodent, the northern grasshopper mouse. Localization thresholds for a single 100-ms noise burst were determined for three grasshopper mice using a conditioned avoidance procedure. Their 50% discrimination threshold of 19 degrees is larger than that of any of the previously tested carnivores and well within the range of other rodents. However, calculations of the binaural sound localization cues available to rodents (based on their head size) suggest that the grasshopper mouse may make more efficient use of the available locus cues than other rodents. Thus, although the grasshopper mouse cannot localize as accurately as carnivores, it appears to be more accurate than predicted for a nonpredatory rodent of its size.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior*
  • Auditory Perception*
  • Avoidance Learning
  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Female
  • Male
  • Muridae*
  • Predatory Behavior*
  • Sound Localization*