Echolocating bats detect but misperceive a multidimensional incongruent acoustic stimulus

Sasha Danilovich, Gal Shalev, Arjan Boonman, Aya Goldshtein, Yossi Yovel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28475-28484
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number45
StatePublished - 10 Nov 2020


FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme679186
European Research Council


    • Bats
    • Echolocation
    • Perception
    • Sensory integration


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