when echolocation goes wrong

when echolocation goes wrong

When studying the life sciences, there are a lot of in-depth concepts to take in. Depending on the the type of science you are studying, biology vs. evolution, for example, you may even have to learn a handful of mathematical formulas to fully appreciate the material. Here, we are just having a light-hearted overview of the life sciences, so a light serving of sativa will do just fine.

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Black Flower Science Co. does not claim to be a medical professional and does not offer recommendations as a substitute for medical advice. All advice and recommendations are based on personal experience of the benefits of medical marijuana. If you are experiencing severe or declining mental health symptoms, please seek the advice of a medical professional.

Reports of animals flying into windows in urban areas are far too frequent. Most often we hear of clumsy or blinded birds smashing into windows and skyscrapers, but little does the public know that other species are at risk of such incidents as well.

Bats are one of the most miraculous mammals on the planet. They defy mammalian norms by traversing across the skies and making their way through the world using one of the most remarkable navigation techniques currently known: echolocation.

Yet, despite their unique routing methods and spatial awareness, these animals are just as vulnerable to colliding into buildings as birds.

Although bats’ acoustics can detect things as small as a mere mosquito, Tel Aviv University (TAU) researchers have learned that they are still susceptible to crashing into walls.

Center for Biological Diversity

Weak Points in Bats’ Sonar

When the TAU research team, led by a former Ph.D. student the university’s Sagol School for Neuroscience, Sash Danilovich, released bats into a corridor filled with an obstacle course, of sorts, they noted that the animals collided into sponge walls.

Objects in this corridor were made of varying materials, the walls being comprised of sponge. However, due to the sponge’s composition, the walls produced a very weak echo. To the bats’ sonar system – which operates by allowing the brain to “[process] various acoustic dimensions from the object such as frequency, spectrum, and intensity” – the sponge wall was essentially invisible.

Although the wall was picked up in the bats’ sonar, they still crashed, which signaled to the scientists that there may be an acoustic mishap occurring. They likened this issue to that of humans bumping into see-through walls and glass doors. It’s not that the bats can’t sense the wall in front of them, but something prevents them from fully realizing that it’s there.

Animal Diversity Web

Manipulating Bat Sonar

Danilovich described their efforts to understand this error in bats sonar: “By presenting bats with objects whose acoustic dimensions are not coherent, we were able to mislead them, creating a misconception that caused them to repeatedly try to fly into a wall even though they had identified it with their sonar.”

The team changed the features of the objects in the corridors (e.g., size, texture, and intensity of the echo), and discovered that bat acoustics depend heavily on coherence between the objects dimensions and its echo: Large things should have strong echoes, and small things should have weak echoes.

Without this correlation, it’s as if the bats are looking directly at an immaculately clean glass window and failing to realize its presence. The result? Colliding into something they know is there.


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