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Echolocation

 

Toothed whales produce sounds to communicate and echolocate.

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What is echolocation?

Echolocation is the ability to see using sound. 

Scientists believe that most or all toothed whales have echolocation abilities. 

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How does echolocation work?

The whale sends out a beam of sound from the melon (the forehead).  The melon acts an an "acoustical lens" to direct the sound.  When the sound hits something it bounces or echoes back to the whale.

What happens when the sounds echo back?  Simply described....The sounds are picked up by the lower jaw.  The lower jawbones are hollow and filled with fat.  This helps the sound travel through the jawbone up to the middle ear, inner ear, and auditory nerve.  These echoes are  interpreted by the brain. 

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What can they "see' with echolocation?

Scientists believe using echolocation toothed whales can tell how far away something is, how big it is, how fast it is moving, which direction it is moving...etc.

Much more research needs to be done to fully understand the complexities of this wonderful adaptation.

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