Echolocating bats detect but misperceive a multidimensional incongruent acoustic stimulus


Link to Full Text

Download Full Text

Publication Date


Publication Title


Volume Number


Issue Number



Coherent perception relies on integrating multiple dimensions of a sensory modality, for example, color and shape in vision. We reveal how different acoustic dimensions, specifically echo intensity and sonar aperture (or width), are important for correct perception by echolocating bats. We flew bats down a corridor blocked by objects with different intensity–aperture combinations. To our surprise, bats crashed straight into large (aperture) walls with weak echo intensity as if they did not exist. The echolocation behavior of the bats indicated that they did detect the wall, suggesting that crashing was not a result of limited sensory sensitivity, but of a perceptual deficit. We systematically manipulated intensity and aperture by changing the materials and width of different reflectors, and we conclude that a coherent echo-based percept is created only when these two acoustic dimensions have certain relations which are typical for objects in nature (e.g., large and intense or small and weak reflectors). Nevertheless, we show that these preferred relations are not innate. We show that young pups are not constrained to these relations and that new intensity–aperture associations can also be learned by adult bats.

Document Type


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)