Volume 3: pp. 46-65

Echoic Object Recognition by the Bottlenose Dolphin

by Heidi E. Harley,
New College of Florida
The Seas®, Epcot, Walt Disney World® Resort

Caroline M. DeLong,
University of Hawaii

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Object recognition, essential to many animals, often occurs underwater and in poor visibility conditions for bottlenose dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins can use sound through their ability to echolocate in order to recognize objects. Echoic object recognition is an unusual faculty that offers rich research opportunities and is the focus of this article. This review begins with a brief overview of the dolphin’s echolocation system followed by considerations of echoic object discrimination, echoic object constancy, the use of echo trains versus individual echoes for object recognition, and extraction of object feature information from echoes. The authors present new data relating the acoustic analysis of objects with a dolphin’s ability to recognize those objects. The results highlight the potential uses for simultaneous analysis of acoustic and behavioral data in order to understand better which features of echoes and echo trains allow the dolphin to recognize objects across vision and echolocation.

Keywords: echolocation, dolphin, object recognition, biosonar

Harley, H. E., & DeLong, C. M. (2008). Echoic Object Recognition by the Bottlenose Dolphin. Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews, 3, 46-65. Retrieved from http://comparative-cognition-and-behavior-reviews.org/ doi:10.3819/ccbr.2008.30003