Mechanical Echolocation Disturbs Natural Echolocators

Every location has a soundscape. Not only does it exist on land but in the ocean. The creatures that live in these environments are part of the soundscape, including the ones that echolocate.  When animals such as bats and dolphins emit the sounds that detect the landscape around them they are contributing to the soundscape. These sounds that are used for echolocation are part of the natural soundscape unlike those of emitted by sonar and radar used by the military. When sonar and radar release the sound pulse it creates noise pollution, disturbing and disrupting the natural soundscape. It can prove hazardous for animals that use echolocation. Sonar sounds in some cases cause temporary deafness in dolphins and has been linked to cases of marine life that use echolocation stranding themselves.

The sound clip is that of the undisturbed natural soundscape of a bat. In the background it is possible to hear normal nighttime sounds including that of a cricket. The main sound is that of the bat while using echolocation to navigate and hunt. Each screech that the bat produces enables it to determine the terrain including the difference between land and water along with the location of any passing insects. Military radar and sonar use the same system except that instead of insects they are searching for passing enemy planes, ships and submarines.

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5 thoughts on “Mechanical Echolocation Disturbs Natural Echolocators

  1. I think this is a really great concept to study. As humans, it is extremely difficult for us to imagine using sound, not sight, as our primary sense. Due to this, our views on sonar noise pollution may be a little biased. It is important to look at what is happening to the animals that are being affected by this, and to realize how important these sonic waves are to their survival.

  2. I’m extremely intrigued by your research for a variety of reasons. First off, dolphins are freaking awesome, and I hope you get to delve deeper into their social patterns and such. That would be interesting to learn about from a sound-oriented perspective. I was also wondering if you were going to explore the part that resonance plays in these soundscapes? It might also be interesting to take the perspective of other organisms around the dolphin or bat, and to understand what these waves do to them.

  3. I think that your topic really shows how the scientific community has neglected the importance of sound in the natural world. Do you think that if there was a greater interest/focus on sonic phenomenon in the scientific community that echolocating animals such as dolphins would have as many human threats?

  4. A slight derivation of your original idea but, do you know anything about the specific physiological function of whale echolocation vs that of a bats? That is, is the body mechanism that produces these noises similar in whales and bats; do they share common ancestry?

  5. I think this topic is really fascinating. Do you know if there are any sonar regulations to protect animals like that?

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