Echolocation: The Evolution of a Superpower

published on July 2, 2020

hi I'm Daniel Defoe and you're watching

Animalia logics second nature

[Music]

what is it like to be a bat they roam

the night when it's pitch black

their prey is small fast and well

camouflaged it seems like a losing

battle but the bat has another card

under its wing it can see the echoes of

its own voice it's the most advanced

sensory tool in nature and it's evolved

separately in several different species

this is echolocation just conduct a

little experiment trying to find out how

the devil bat does is kill her

[Applause]

[Music]

some animals have built in

military-grade machinery in their heads

a biological sonar system the animal

will make a high-pitched noise and hear

the echo allowing them to map the world

around them when the sounds bounce off

of different materials they sound

different and the closer the object is

the faster the sound will bounce this is

an amazing strategy but it has a big

drawback as the high-pitched noise

travels and disperses through the air it

loses power density some of the sound is

also absorbed by the air and water but

to deal with this they have two

adaptations they can make extremely loud

noises that can travel far and they have

amazingly sensitive hearing the best

natural sonar belongs to bats who use it

to catch prey as small as a moth there

are over 1,200 species and over half of

these spooky creatures echolocate you've

heard about the bats they have here some

of them that's is rabbit well different

species use different frequencies and

they range from about 20 to 200

kilohertz lower frequencies travel

further but higher frequencies paint the

best 3d picture of their surroundings

especially when they chirp 200 times a

second

[Music]

[Applause]

luckily their sonar is outside our range

of hearing their clicks can be as loud

as a chainsaw and if we were able to

hear thousands of flying chainsaws at

night we'd never sleep again the clicks

go out extremely loud but by the time

they come back they can be thousands of

times quieter to detect them they need

super hearing their inner ear has a very

high concentration of receptor cells in

some species they can tell differences

in sound as slight as point one hurts to

prevent their chainsaw loud chirps from

destroying their sensitive ears they

physically unplug their ears they can

contract muscles in their head to detach

the inner ear bones from each other the

most amazing thing about it is that they

can chirp for a few milliseconds then

plug their ears back for a few

milliseconds and repeat the process over

200 times a second another low

visibility environment where

echolocation is helpful is the ocean and

the best echo locators are the toothed

cetaceans like dolphins

nobody ever trained a porpoise but

judging by their ability to stand on the

tails they have possibilities

[Music]

dolphins are amazing explorers hunters

and social creatures despite not being

able to rely on their sight or their

sense of smell to navigate their

environment

and they managed to do it all through

echolocation it's plain to see why

saltwater fishermen hate to see

porpoises appear they can ruin fishing

[Music]

to make their clicking noise they slop

structures and their blue holes called

sonic lips they have two pairs of lips

as they evolved from the two nostrils in

their terrestrial ancestors so they can

make two clicks simultaneously the sound

then travels through the melon the fatty

part of the Dolphins head which can

change its shape to focus the sound wave

to the object of the Dolphins attention

it's basically a lens for sound the

echoes are then received through the

Dolphins lower jaw and transmitted to

the inner ear and all of this happens in

a fraction of a second as sound travels

faster in water than in the air

now since who watches water poop I guess

that proves it sound awful traveller

through water that's right

rehabilitated dolphins at the Dolphin

Research Center in Florida are teaching

scientists about their ability to see

through their ears blindfolded dolphins

are able to find a metal ring at the

bottom of a pool by sensing the

differences in the echoes that bounce

off the ring and those that bounce off

the sand a helpful tool when you're

looking for your keys before leaving the

house

[Music]

this other dolphin can copy his friends

actions just by hearing them their ears

are really high precision tools

fortunately for beachgoers and scuba

divers we can't hear the clicks as

they're emitted at over a hundred

kilohertz in order to avoid being heard

by killer whales toothed cetaceans are

not the only mammals who echolocate over

a hundred species of shrews and several

other small mammals have developed the

ability to use sound for navigation have

you ever heard of a shrew as in Taming

of a bad book called him saw at Surry

City when he showed you one no shrew

must be the common name for those cute

little and cute that's the last one you

can use to describe those little

monsters they're the most horrible

animals on the face of the earth shrews

for example are very vocal animals and

are known to Twitter when exploring new

environments like bats shrews are

nocturnal animals but since they're

close to the ground they're able to use

their sense of smell to find food you

believe imperative what'd you have in

mind there are two or three hundred

giants who's out there

monsters weighing between 50 and 100

pounds that's as big as a full-grown

wolf and what's more they are beginning

to starve

in both bats and dolphins there was a

need to develop high-frequency

echolocation to avoid attracting

predators but shrews tweets might not be

loud enough to attract predators and are

even in the range of human hearing their

echolocation is a very rudimentary and

it's mostly used as a complementary tool

to determine soil density and to sense

big obstacles like logs and rocks

[Music]

the most unlikely animals to echo locate

are birds only a handful of gener are

known to do this and among them the oil

bird is the king of the sonar oil birds

should be called bat birds they only

have their current name due to the fact

that their babies are so fat that they

can be used as fuel for oil lamps but

their behavior is surprisingly bad like

their huge colonies roost in caves as

high as possible they're fully nocturnal

and of course they echolocate unlike the

other animals in this episode they only

eat fruit and have amazing nocturnal

vision which suggests that they don't

need to echolocate to find food the

majority of their echolocation happens

in their caves as a way to navigate

their pitch-black homes and possibly to

communicate with each other and one of

the greatest cave cacophonous on earth

despite this there's evidence to suggest

that echolocation has evolved separately

multiple times and birds with a little

luck we might see new birds develop this

amazing sense

[Music]

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thanks for watching stay safe and Thea

twenty-four hours there'll be one shrew

left on the island and he'll be dead of

starvation an excellent example of

overpopulation well you know something

doctor what's that

I'm not gonna worry about overpopulation

just yet

[Music]

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