Echolocating toothed whales use ultra-fast echo-kinetic responses to track evasive prey (sofware)

  • Heather Vance (University of St Andrews) (Creator)
  • PEter Madsen (Creator)
  • Natacha Aguilar de Soto (UNIVERSIDAD DE LA LAGUNA) (Creator)
  • Danuta Wisniewska (Creator)
  • Michael Ladegaard (Creator)
  • Sascha Kate Hooker (Creator)
  • Mark Johnson (University of Aarhus) (Creator)



Visual predators rely on fast-acting optokinetic responses to track and capture agile prey. Most toothed whales, however, rely on echolocation for hunting and have converged on biosonar clicking rates reaching 500/s during prey pu rsuits. If echoes are processed on a click by click basis, as assumed, neural responses 100x faster than those in vision are required to keep pace with this information flow. Using high resolution bio-logging of wild predator prey interactions we show that toothed whales adjust clicking rates to track prey movement within 50 200 ms of prey escape responses. Hypothesising that these stereotyped biosonar adjustments are elicited by sudden prey accelerations, we measured echo kinetic responses from trained harb our porpoises to a moving target and found similar latencies. High biosonar sampling rates are, therefore, not supported by extreme speeds of neural processing and muscular responses. Instead, the neuro kinetic response times in echolocation are similar to those of tracking responses in vision, suggesting a common neural underpinning.
Date made available2021


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