Bats and Echolocation

Bats are not blind; in fact they can see almost as well as humans. But to fly around and hunt for insects in the dark, they use a remarkable high frequency system called echolocation.

Echolocation works in a similar way to sonar. Bats make calls as they fly and listen to the returning echoes to build up a sonic map of their surroundings. The bat can tell how far away something is by how long it takes the sounds to return to them.

These calls are usually pitched at a frequency too high for adult humans to hear naturally. Human hearing ranges from approximately 20Hz (cycles per second) to 15 to 20 kHz (1000Hz) depending on age. In comparison, some bats can hear sounds up to 110 kHz in frequency. By emitting a series of often quite loud ultrasounds that either sweep from a high to low frequency or vary around a frequency, bats can distinguish objects and their insect prey and therefore avoid the object or catch the insect.

Individual bat species echolocate within specific frequency ranges that suit their environment and prey types. This means that we can identify many bats simply by listening to their calls with bat detectors.

http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/echolocation.html

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