11 Animals With Echolocation

Animals With Echolocation
Photo by Rémi Boudousquié on Unsplash

The technique of using sound to sense your surroundings is called echolocation.

What are animals with echolocation? Humans have harnessed this ability through technologies like sonar, which uses sound waves to find underwater things and other related applications.

Many animals with echolocation have a hunting technique; some even use it to scout their environment.

This article will expose you to incredible animals with echolocation.

1. Shrew

The first ground-based animal on our list of echolocating animals is a shrew.

Three species of shrews are known to echolocate: the common shrew (Sorex araneus), the short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda), and the wandering shrew (Sorex vagrans).

Shrews, in contrast to the other animals, perceive barriers underground by making a sequence of squeaks rather than clicking.

Being among the tiniest mammals, shrews also have the unique quality of being among the few poisonous mammals.

Though they resemble rodents, they are more closely related to moles.

Echolocation is probably a compensatory adaptation that shrews make for their little and weak eyes and the dark habitats in which they live.

2. Oil Bird

Oil Bird 
by USFWS/Southeast is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The only other bird species that use echolocation is the oilbird (Steatornis caripensis).

Like swiftlets, these animals with echolocation are nocturnal. South American animals live in caves and are fed only on fruit.

These animals with echolocation find their way through the dim tunnels, where they spend the night using their echolocating ability.

The native populace used to catch and kill juvenile oilbirds because of their unusually plump look, which is how the bird got its name.

After that, they turned the animals into oil for cooking and illumination.

These birds have also been known to fly up to 150 kilometers in a single night to scavenge for food.

They also gather in enormous flocks of several thousand individuals. Eaters of whole avocados and palm fruits, oilbirds disperse the seeds of these fruit trees throughout their vast range by passing them and excreting them.

Like the other birds on our list, these birds use clicks for echolocation but also have a distinct call that sounds like a person crying.

They were called guácharo in Spanish, which means “one who complains,” because of the sound of this call.

3. Bats

Types of Bats in South Dakota
Photo by Pixel-mixer on Pixabay

Plecotus austriacus, sometimes known as the grey long-eared bat, is a huge European bat that primarily hunts moths over forests during the day.

Regarding animals with echolocation, our first species is also the one that is most frequently imagined. When the topic of echolocation comes up, most people immediately think of bats.

However, not all bat species have this kind of adaptation. While several species of bats in the Megachiroptera suborder also utilize echolocation for navigating, echolocation is primarily used by bats in the suborder Microchiroptera for hunting.

The question of when bats first acquired the capacity to use echolocation is up for contention among scientists due to this disparity in evolution.

Bats make loud chirps that reverberate off of nearby objects. Their brains have evolved to detect and interpret this sound, enabling them to identify potential prey and avoid hazards.

Bats with perfect vision still use echolocation to hunt. Therefore, this adaptation most likely developed due to their predecessors’ poor vision.

More than 140 dB clicks have been recorded from the bulldog bat (Noctilio leporinus), and certain bats may shut off a portion of their ear to shield their hearing when making these sounds.

4. Dolphins

Types of Dolphins in Florida
Photo by Pexels on Pixabay

Whales and dolphins both employ brief, broad-spectrum clicks for echolocation. However, dolphins use significantly higher frequencies.

Dolphins use their higher-pitched clicks for echolocation, but they normally employ lower frequencies, or “whistles,” for social communication within pods or individuals.

The Atlantic spotted dolphin in the Bahamas uses a low frequency of 40–50 kHz for communication, but while echolocating, it emits a considerably higher frequency signal of 100–130 kHz.7.

Dolphins are primarily oriented for echolocation to compensate for their limited ability to see up to 150 feet ahead of them.

In addition to their middle and inner ear canals, these animals with echolocation use sound receptors in their jawbones and a unique structure called a melon on their foreheads to help with acoustic detection up to half a mile away.

5. Whales

Pygmy Killer Whales

This is the next on our list of animals with echolocation, a whale. Like the dolphins we just discussed, all-toothed whales use a succession of clicking sounds to echolocate.

These high-pitched noises are used by animals, such as the beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas), to hunt fish and identify other objects.

The exact mechanism by which these cetaceans can preserve their hearing while making such loud noises underwater has eluded researchers.

Whales greatly enhance their target identification because sound travels through water 4.5 times quicker than above.

Research has demonstrated that toothed whales and dolphins can detect rapidly moving objects by focusing their echolocation like a sonar beam.

This demonstrates the capacity to use echolocation to recognize animals, pinpoint a target, and follow it over a range of distances.

Several navies worldwide have been experimenting with using specific sound waves as encryption tools or weapons.

These sound waves severely impact the populations of whales and dolphins. There’s evidence that these sound waves induce whole pods of whales or dolphins to beach themselves.

6. Swiftlets

by Lip Kee is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Small, cave-dwelling birds known as swiftlets are found from Southeast Asia to the islands of the South Pacific.

They are one of only two species of birds that employ echolocation and can live in flocks of up to a million members.

Certain animals, such as the pygmy swiftlet (Collocalia troglodytes), navigate through their home’s dark caverns using clicks like those made by whales and dolphins.

Humans can hear the clicks of swiftlets because they fall within the 1,500–5,500 hertz audible hearing range.

These birds, which can transmit up to six clicks per second, can detect obstructions precisely and navigate through total darkness.

Compared to their quick relative, these small birds—which measure just 3.5–6 inches in length—fly lower and with considerably greater erraticness.

7. Dormice

by Kentish Plumber is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In contrast to shrews, dormice are true rodents, and they echolocate via high-pitched squeaking, as does the Chinese pygmy dormouse (Typhlomys cinereus).

Considering that this dormouse is arboreal and practically blind, this is even more amazing.

The Chinese pygmy dormouse is said to be lightning-fast; despite having eyes so bad that they can only tell the difference between light and dark, they manage to maneuver through tree branches with ease.

Due to its underdeveloped optic nerve and folded retina, the Vietnamese pygmy dormouse is blind.

Due to its limited vision, this small brown mouse has evolved a biological sonar system that can equal that of echolocating experts such as dolphins and bats.

8. Tenrecs

by MrGuilt is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is the next on our list of animals with echolocation. Mammals known as tenrecs are found solely on the island of Madagascar.

Tenrecs are thought to have shared a common ancestor, from which over thirty species have emerged.

The closest relatives of tenrecs are moles and shrews. While the largest weighs more than two pounds, some are tiny and barely weigh a few ounces.

Researchers recorded many species of tenrecs in great detail in the 1960s, using different clicking noises to locate items in complete darkness.

Most of the species produced gentle clicking sounds with their lips and tongues.

One noteworthy discovery in this study was using echolocation clicks by tenrecs grown in isolation in the lab to investigate the boundaries of their cages.

9. Aye-Ayes

by Frank.Vassen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Another native of Madagascar, the aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), is the only known primate to employ echolocation in any capacity.

These animals with echolocation are also distinct because no other primate has ever had incisors that develop continuously, much like a rodent’s.

These mammals use their incredibly long, slender middle finger to tap on logs and branches to detect the echoes of hollow tunnels used by insects and grubs.

They don’t vocalize any sounds for echolocation.

Aye-ayes are a type of lemur likened to a hybrid between a monkey and a bat due to their remarkable look.

Native Americans in the area have started slaughtering aye-aye whenever they see them because they think they are a sign of bad luck.

The aye-ate is now considered endangered due to habitat loss and superstition.

Numerous species on land, in the water, and in the sky above have mastered the virtual superpower of echolocation.

Amazingly, humans have even shown evidence of this skill; researchers have investigated blind people who use echoes to find their way around barriers in a foreign area.

Finding other animals that have evolved similarly astoundingly is only a question of time, given how much better our capacity to understand the world around us will get.

10. Narwhal

Narwhals - Animals With Tusks
by Jes Simpson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The narwhal is the third animal in the odontocetes category I will discuss. I’m confident these aquatic unicorns will enchant you just as much as they have so many others, even if you’re not as familiar with them as I am.

Except for color and horns, narwhals and beluga whales are extremely similar.

An extended tooth, the narwhal’s horn may reach up to nine feet long and help the animal locate objects by echolocation. It grows continuously throughout the animal’s life.

A narwhal’s tusk, or tooth, is highly flexible and contains over a million nerve endings. The tusk is not the only tool used for echolocation; it is not the primary tool.

11. Human

Humans - Animals With Multiple Hearts
by hapal is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Humans are the last on our list of animals with echolocation. They use sonars and radars to identify objects and navigate through echolocation.

Actually, the invention of these devices was influenced by the study of biologist Donald Gryphon, who examined bat navigation.

Additionally, Gryphon coined the term “echolocation.” Some blind persons have mastered using tongues to click noises and listen for echoes to identify obstacles.

A recent study found that those who can echolocate, despite being blind, extensively use the visual brain regions.


Within the animal kingdom, echolocation refers to an animal’s ability to ascertain an object’s location by analyzing the echoes of its sounds.

An exquisite evolutionary adaptation to a low-light habitat is echolocation.

Only mammals—bats, dolphins, porpoises, and toothed whales—have been observed to take advantage of this exceptional sensing capacity.

It is now thought that these animals with echolocation “see” objects with sound in a similar or higher level of detail than humans do when using reflected light.

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