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11 Animals that Use Echolocation (A to Z List & Pictures)

Examples of Animals that Use Echolocation

Animals such as bats, dolphins, and whales use echolocation to hunt for prey or to avoid obstacles in their environment.

Echolocation is a form of biological sonar and it allows animals to find food, identify predators and avoid obstacles.

The process involves sending out sounds and interpreting the echoes that bounce back from objects or prey.

Examples of Animals that Use Echolocation

Echolocation is the use of sound waves and echoes by animals to determine their surroundings. It’s used for navigation, hunting, communication, orientation in space or time, and even social interactions between different species.

This can be done through clicking noises or calls that travel through water (as with dolphins) but also through other mediums like a bat’s sonar.

1. Aye-Ayes

Aye Aye
Scientific NameDaubentonia madagascariensis
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeMadagascar
DietOmnivore

Aye-Ayes are animals that use echolocation. These animals don’t vocalize the noises used for echolocation, but they do tap on trees and branches where they wait for insect and grub echoes.

Aye-Ayes have long fingers with claws on them which they use to “fish” for insect larva that lives inside trees. The animals move their fingers across the surface of a tree until they detect the presence of larvae which are then snapped up into their mouths.

2. Bats

bat
Scientific NameChiroptera
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeWorldwide
DietOmnivore

Bats use echolocation by emitting ultrasonic sounds through their mouth or nose and listening to how those sound waves interact with objects around them.

This allows bats to navigate at night by using echoes from nearby objects such as trees, rocks, or water, which they hear via a complex system of large ears found on the outside of their faces.

The bat’s brain then processes this information and allows it to fly safely around objects without colliding with them.

Bats are mammals. They are nocturnal. One kind of bat is called the bulldog bat because it has a snout like a dog. It has clicks that go over 140 decibels.

Some bats can turn off parts of their ears when they use these clicks to find prey because the clicks are so loud they could hurt their ears if they didn’t have this ability.

3. Dolphins

Bottlenose Dolphin
Scientific NameDelphinus delphis
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeWorldwide
DietCarnivore

Dolphins make clicking sounds by moving air between their nasal sacs and the blowhole on top of their heads.

The sound waves bounce off objects in front of them, like an old-fashioned radar system that sends out radio waves to detect obstacles on the road ahead while driving. A dolphin’s brain then processes what it hears into images.

A large, fatty organ called a melon focuses the sound waves into beams that dolphins can aim in different directions.

4. Dormice

Dormouse
Scientific NameGliridae
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeAfrica, Asia, and Europe
DietOmnivore

Dormice are skilled at using echolocation, emitting ultrasonic calls in order to determine where objects are. Dormice are blind so they are highly sensitive to their surroundings.

Dormice emit ultrasonic sound waves, and it bounces off objects around them, which creates echoes. The Dormouse can determine where an object is by listening for these echoes and how long it takes before they hear a response after emitting a call or movement of its body.

For example, if a Dormouse emits an ultrasonic sound wave and hears echoes that come back quickly, then it is probably closer to the object. If there are no echoes or they return slowly, then this means objects may be further away from them.

The Chinese pygmy dormouse is able to climb up the trees with ease, despite their eyes being so poor that they can only differentiate between light and dark.

5. Narwhal

Scientific NameMonodon monoceros
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeArctic
DietCarnivore

The narwhal’s horn is actually a lengthened tooth that grows throughout the animal’s life, reaching up to 9 feet long, and aids them in echolocation. The Narwhal tooth, commonly known as a tusk, has over a million nerve endings and is quite flexible.

Narwhals emit a wide range of low-frequency clicking noises that bounce off objects in their environments such as schools of fish, ice shelves, or the ocean floor. Their clicks can travel up to several kilometers underwater depending on conditions.

Narwhal’s large forehead is thought to help them generate more sound and focus it better.

6. Oilbirds

Scientific NameSteatornis caripensis
Type of AnimalBird
RangeSouth America
DietHerbivore

One of the most interesting animals that use echolocation is called an Oilbird. This bird has a very unique feature that allows it to be able to use this type of navigation.

Some of the birds on this list use clicks for echolocation, but they also have a distinctive call that sounds like a person screaming.

The sound of this call was responsible for giving them their Spanish name guácharo, which means one who moans.

7. Porpoises

Porpoise
Scientific NamePhocoenidae
Type of AnimalFish
RangeSubarctic, and the Arctic
DietCarnivore

Porpoises are mammals with dark grey or black skin. They are known for their large dorsal fins, which is why they are sometimes referred to as “Dolphins” by people who do not know them well. Porpoises can be found all over the world and live in shallow waters near coastlines around the planet.

Porpoises use echolocation for hunting food as well as communication with other porpoises from a high peak frequency of about 130 kHz.

The harbor porpoise has a high wave biosonar signal wavelength of about 12 millimeters (0.47 inches), indicating that the sound beam they project while echolocating is narrow enough to distinguish echoes from smaller items.

8. Shrews

Shrew
Scientific NameSoricidae
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeNorth America to northwestern South America, Africa
DietCarnivore

The common shrew (Sorex araneus), the short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda), and the wandering shrew (Sorex vagrans) are three species that echolocate. Shrews, unlike other animals, use a squeaking sound rather than a click when detecting obstacles beneath the earth’s surface.

They use high-frequency sound to navigate their environment. And, they do this by moving their nose around and listening for the echo of those sounds coming back to them.

This helps them find prey because it allows them to pick up on even tiny movements.In fact, some shrews can hear as low as 20kHz which is much lower than humans can.

9. Swiftlets

Swiftlet
Scientific NameCollocaliini
Type of AnimalBird
RangeIndia, Sri Lanka, and the Malay Peninsula
DietCarnivore

The Swiftlet is a small bird that lives in Asia. They make nests out of their own saliva on the sides of cliffs and other steep surfaces, like caves or man-made structures.

Most birds use sight to find food, but not these guys. The Swiftlets echolocate by making clicking sounds with their beaks which bounce off of objects and then come back to them.

This lets the Swiftlet know how far away something is, or if it’s in their way! It’s kind of like a natural sonar system that uses echoes instead of sound waves like we use with our ships at sea.

Swiftlets produce these sounds in the audible hearing range of 1,500-5,500 hertz, which means that humans can hear them as well. These avian species may precisely identify obstacles and navigate through complete darkness by sending out up to six clicks each second.

10. Tenrecs

Tenrec
Scientific NameTenrecidae
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeMadagascar
DietOmnivore

Tenrecs use echolocation to find insect prey hiding under leaf litter on the forest floor and also to navigate their way through the forest.

Tenrecs, unlike the other species we’ve discussed so far, use echolocation to communicate with one another as well.

They tap their quills together to convey their locations and whether they’re detecting a threat while living in family groups.

Tenrecs can also use echolocation to find their way around in the dark, navigating rocky terrain without any trouble.

They’ve even been known to swim underwater and orient themselves using sonar. These mammals have some impressive abilities for such a small creature with no close relatives that share these same traits.

11. Whales

gray whale
Scientific NameCetacea
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeWorldwide
DietCarnivore

Whales are able to use echolocation in order to find prey. When they hunt for food, they usually start by making high-frequency sounds so that the sound waves bounce off of any objects around them and cause echoes.

Whales can then hear these echoes with their large lower jawbone. The brain helps whales determine where different objects are located around them.

Whales also use echolocation to help navigate the ocean and find their way through dark areas where they cannot see clearly, such as murky waters or deep caves.

They can sense how far away objects are based on sound waves that have bounced off of those objects before returning back to them.

Whales also make clicking sounds when they are trying to find their way through dark areas. These clicks create sound waves that bounce off the objects in front of them and return to them, giving whales information about where obstacles or prey might be located ahead.

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