1. Ecology
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Echolocation: The brain limit

  1. Alexander J Werth  Is a corresponding author
  2. Joseph E Corbett
  1. Department of Biology, Hampden-Sydney College, United States
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Cite this article as: eLife 2021;10:e74096 doi: 10.7554/eLife.74096
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Figures

Comparing the response times of echolocating and visual predators.

(Left) Toothed whales (such as dolphins and porpoises) are echokinetic predators that track prey by emitting sonar pings, or clicks, which they release faster as they get closer to their target: they then process the sensory information from the returning echo and move their bodies accordingly to hunt down the prey. (Right) Optokinetic predators (such as wolves) rely on their vision to hunt, rapidly moving their eyes to lock on to the prey’s position and track where it goes. Vance et al. found that echokinetic predators respond to the sensory input from the echo and coordinate their bodily motion at the same speeds that optokinetic predators use to track prey with eye movements. This suggests that the tracking abilities of both types of predators are limited by how fast their brains process sensory information and how quickly their muscles contract; it also indicates a shared evolutionary origin for the neuromuscular system that may underlie hunting in mammals.

Image credit: Alexander J Werth and Joseph E Corbett.

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