Texture Discrimination using Echolocation

HOME | PROJECTS                                                                by Ben Falk
Hanging bats

    Echolocating bats navigate obstacles and identify prey using sonar by emitting high frequency vocalizations and listening to the returning echoes. As an undergraduate we were interested in determining the extent that bats identify objects of different texture using echolocation. For my undergraduate honors thesis, I worked with another undergraduate, Tameeka Williams, to train bats Eptesicus fuscus to hit a smooth object over different textured objects. We recorded the successful discrimination performance of the bat with different textured objects. We also recorded the sonar vocalizations, the sonar beam aim, and the three dimensional trajectory of the bat during discrimination. This allowed us to reconstruct each trial, determining how the bat was able to successfully discriminate the objects using echolocation. We found that bats sequentially inspected each target, adjusting the timing and aiming of their vocalizations to separate the returning echoes from each object. You can find video animations of trials here.