Abstract

Echolocating bats and toothed whales probe their environment with ultrasonic sound pulses, using returning echoes to navigate and find prey in a process that appears to have resulted from a remarkable convergence of the two taxa. Here we report the first detailed quantification of echolocation behaviour during prey capture in the most studied delphinid species, a false killer whale and a bottlenose dolphin. Using acoustic DTAGs, we demonstrate that just prior to prey interception these delphinids change their acoustic gaze dramatically by reducing inter-click intervals and outputs >10-fold in a high-repetition-rate, low output buzz. Buzz click rates of 250-500 Hz for large, but agile animals, suggest that sampling rates during capture are scaled with the whales’ manoeuvrability. These observations support the growing notion that fast sonar sampling accompanied by low output level is critical for high-rate feedback to inform motor patterns during prey interception in all echolocating toothed whales.

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