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Bone-conducted sound in a dolphin's mandible: Experimental investigation of elastic waves mediating information on sound source position

  • Reinwald, Michael
  • GRIMAL, Quentin
  • Marchal, Jacques
  • Catheline, Stefan
  • Boschi, Lapo
Publication Date
Oct 01, 2018
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Mammals use binaural or monaural (spectral) cues to localize acoustic sources. While the sensitivity of terrestrial mammals to changes in source elevation is relatively poor, the accuracy achieved by the odontocete cetaceans' biosonar is high, independently of where the source is. Binaural/spectral cues are unlikely to account for this remarkable skill. In this paper, bone-conducted sound in a dolphin's mandible is studied, investigating its possible contribution to sound localization. Experiments are conducted in a water tank by deploying, on the horizontal and median planes of the skull, ultrasound sources that emit synthetic clicks between 45 and 55 kHz. Elastic waves propagating through the mandible are measured at the pan bones and used to localize source positions via either binaural cues or a correlation-based full-waveform algorithm. Exploiting the full waveforms and, most importantly, reverberated coda, it is possible to enhance the accuracy of source localization in the vertical plane and achieve similar resolution of horizontal- vs vertical-plane sources. The results noted in this paper need to be substantiated by further experimental work, accounting for soft tissues and making sure that the data are correctly mediated to the internal ear. If confirmed, the results would favor the idea that dolphin's echolocation skills rely on the capability to analyze the coda of biosonar echoes.

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