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Echolocating toothed whales use ultra-fast echo-kinetic responses to track evasive prey


Vance, Heather et al. (2021), Echolocating toothed whales use ultra-fast echo-kinetic responses to track evasive prey, Dryad, Dataset,


Visual predators rely on fast-acting optokinetic responses to track and capture agile prey. Most toothed whales, however, rely on echolocation for hunting and have converged on biosonar clicking rates reaching 500/s during prey pu rsuits. If echoes are processed on a click by click basis, as assumed, neural responses 100x faster than those in vision are required to keep pace with this information flow. Using high resolution bio-logging of wild predator prey interactions we show that toothed whales adjust clicking rates to track prey movement within 50 200 ms of prey escape responses. Hypothesising that these stereotyped biosonar adjustments are elicited by sudden prey accelerations, we measured echo kinetic responses from trained harb our porpoises to a moving target and found similar latencies. High biosonar sampling rates are, therefore, not supported by extreme speeds of neural processing and muscular responses. Instead, the neuro kinetic response times in echolocation are similar to those of tracking responses in vision, suggesting a common neural underpinning.


See 'Materials and Methods' section of Vance et al (2021).


Usage Notes

This data set is divided into wild harbour porpoise data (files beginning with hp), wild beaked whale data (files beginning with md) and trained harbour porpoise data (files beginning with either Freja17 or Sif17). The wild data represent the echolocation responses of harbour porpoise and beaked whales to their prey in the wild. The trained harbour porpoise data represents echolocation responses to a moving aluminium sphere target in a captive setting. Each file contains an individual prey encounter/moving target trial. 

The data is presented in a NetCDF format and includes additional metadata within each data structure. The structures included are 1) X -the sound envelope 2) CL - the timing of echolocation clicks relative to the start of the sound envelope 3) R- the time of prey/target movement relative to start of sound extract and distance from prey/target during movement 4) info- an information structure for the tag deployment and 5) for trained harbour porpoise trials only, A - the two axes acceleration of the aluminum target sphere. 

We have further included several MATLAB scripts which will allow users to plot echograms of the acoustic data, the same as those presented in Vance et al (2021). Additional information on how to use these is included within the help information for each script. 


Bundesamt für Naturschutz, Award: Z1.2 5330/2010/14