Echolocation in Bats: The External Ear and Perception of the Vertical Positions of Targets

Science. 1982 Oct 29;218(4571):481-3. doi: 10.1126/science.7123247.


Echolocating bats (Eptesicus fuscus) can perceive changes of as little as 3 degrees of arc in the vertical angles separating pairs of horizontal rods. This acuity depends upon modification of sounds entering the external ear canal by the structures of the external ear. Deflection of the tragus degrades the acuity of vertical-angle perception from 3 degrees to about 12 degrees to 14 degrees. The pinna-tragus structure produces a strong secondary echo of sounds entering the external ear canal, and the delay of this echo after the time when the sound directly enters the ear canal apparently encodes the vertical direction of a sound source.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chiroptera / anatomy & histology
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Ear, External / physiology
  • Echolocation / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Ultrasonics