Quantitative approaches to sensory information encoding by bat noseleaves and pinnae

Rolf Müller

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The biosonar systems of horseshoe bats (Rhinolophidae) and Old World round leaf-nosed bats (Hipposideridae) incorporate a pervasive dynamic at the interfaces for ultrasound emission (noseleaves) and reception (pinnae). Changes in the shapes of these structures alter the acoustic characteristics of the biosonar system and could hence influence the encoding of sensory information. The focus of the present work is on approaches that can be used to investigate the hypothesis that the interface dynamic effects sensory information encoding. Mutual information can be used as a metric to quantify the extent to which the different ultrasonic emission and reception characteristics (beampatterns) provide independent views of the environment. Two different quantitative approaches have been taken to evaluate the relationship between dynamically encoded additional sensory information and sensing performance in finding the direction of a biosonar target. The first approach is to determine an upper bound on the number of different directions that can be distinguished by virtue of distinct spectral signatures. The second approach is based on a lower bound (Cramér–Rao) on the variance of direction estimates. All these different metrics demonstrate that the peripheral dynamics seen in bats result in the encoding of additional sensory information that is suitable for enhancing biosonar performance.