(redirected from echolocate)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical.
Related to echolocate: Biosonar


determination of the position of an object by measuring the time taken for an echo to return from it and its direction



the perception of reflected sound waves, usually high-frequency, by certain animals, which emit them to detect objects in space, such as prey or obstacles, and determine their properties and dimensions. Echolocation is one of the means by which animals orient themselves in space. It is developed in bats and dolphins and has been discovered in shrews, a number of species of seals, and birds, including oilbirds and salanganes.

In dolphins and bats, echolocation is based on the emission of ultrasonic impulses with frequencies of as high as 130–200 kilo-hertz (kHz) and duration of signals usually from 0.2 to 4–5 milliseconds, sometimes more. In birds that live in dark caves, such as oilbirds and salanganes, it is used for orientation in the dark; they emit low-frequency signals of 7–4 kHz. Dolphins and bats use echolocation not only to determine their general orientation, but also to determine the spatial position of an object and its dimensions. In a number of cases echolocation even enables them to recognize the appearance of an object and therefore often serves as an important means of searching out and capturing food.


Airapet’iants, E. Sh., and A. I. Konstantinov. Ekholokatsiia v prirode, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1974.



An animal's use of sound reflections to localize objects and to orient in the environment.
References in periodicals archive ?
The first experiment revealed that untrained sighted participants can quickly learn to echolocate.
An important finding, which differed from those of all previous studies, was that with sufficient training some sighted persons learn to echolocate with a level of proficiency that approaches that of expert echolocators who are congenitally blind.
The scientists believe the other one is a passive system that has special timing considerations in a portion of the brain that becomes engaged when they begin to echolocate.
Other bats use tongue clicks to emit sonar signals and some do not echolocate at all.
This observation makes it possible to distinguish bats that produce echolocation signals with their larynx from bats that do not echolocate and those that use tongue clicks.
But our bat has a calcar, even though it did not echolocate, showing us that the bone and membrane evolved first, likely as an adaptation for flight.
We knew that even without the ability to echolocate, our bat ate insects, since its teeth look like perfectly good insect-eating teeth.
They don't necessarily need their vision to fly or catch insects because they are also able to echolocate.
The fossil record of these delicate-boned creatures is sparse, but analyses hint that even the earliest known bats--those flitting through the skies between 54 million and 50 million years ago--could echolocate, says Nancy B.
Some echolocating species have close relatives that apparently possess the anatomical means to echolocate but don't use it, implying that avian echolocation is a behavior that some species simply haven't learned.
Thanks to this ability to echolocate, they "see" in much finer detail the scene that the goggles present to me.
Mysticetes, such as the blue whale, lack the ability to echolocate.