Weekly Article: Bats Usage of Echolocation

Bats Usage of Echolocation

By: Raquel Zuniga

Contrary to popular belief, bats aren’t blind, in fact they can “see” in total darkness thanks to echolocation. Echolocation is “the use of sound waves and echoes to determine where objects are in space,” says www.askabiologist.asu.edu.

Bats, dolphins, whales, shrews, and some birds use echolocation to communicate to others in their species, as well as to find food. For bats in particular, they send out sound waves from their mouth or nose. When the sound waves hit an object, it produces echoes; these echoes come back to the bats ears. These echoes tell the bat where the object is, how big it is, and the shape of the object. Because of echolocation, bats can detect objects as thin as a human hair in complete darkness.

Echolocation is a useful tool that some blind people utilize to navigate within their surroundings.

Sonar, for those who don’t know, is a system for detecting objects under water and for measuring the water’s depth by emitting sound pulses and measuring their return after being reflected, just like a bat. Scientists developed sonar and radar navigation systems, used by the military, from studying bats use of echolocation. Radar navigation systems use electromagnetic waves to determine the location of objects like planes and ships. Bat echolocation is used only in open air as well as radar, but sonar is used only under water.

For more information on how bats use echolocation, visit https://askabiologist.asu.edu/echolocation.