Top 10 Animals that Use Echolocation to Survive

Animals use echolocation to bounce sound waves off objects or prey, helping them find food sources, detect predators, and avoid obstacles. This process acts as a biological sonar and enables animals to interpret echoes to determine the shape and material of objects, navigate in the dark, and communicate.

Below is a list of ten animals that rely on echolocation for survival.



Oilbirds are bird species that often live together in caves, particularly in parts of South America, like the Caribbean Islands of Trinidad. These birds are the only active fruit-eating birds at night, feeding on fruits like oil palm and tropical laurels. Humans can hear their high-pitched clicks, which are around 2 kHz.

However, their range and resolution decrease when light levels are low, so they rely more on echolocation. Oilbirds rely on echolocation in bright moonlight to detect objects more accurately at short ranges. In the darkness, they use echolocation to orient themselves spatially, as echo information can reveal objects at distances that are difficult to see with the naked eye.



Swiftlets are small bird species found commonly in the Indo-Pacific region. Their long, narrow wings allow them to fly quickly. They use echolocation to navigate the dark caves, which helps them avoid predators. Their echolocation is simple and effective, and they make brief clicks that are audible to humans in the frequency range of 1-10 kHz.

Their clicks consist of two pulses separated by a slight pause. The interpulse period is shorter in darker situations when obstacles are harder to see and longer when the bird approaches the cave exit. They also emit a series of low clicks followed by a call to warn nearby birds to move out of their way.

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Porpoise Did you know that porpoises are the most found toothed whales that use sound for echolocation and communication? Echolocation is a technique that helps them navigate their surroundings and locate prey and other objects with sound. Additionally, they use high-frequency whistles for communication. As part of their echolocation method, porpoises make two distinct sounds: clicking and buzzing.

They produce clicking sounds to search for food and locate their prey. Once they spot their prey with clicks, they use a high-frequency buzz to get a continuous echo from the prey they are pursuing. Their high-frequency sonar has a relatively narrow bandwidth, which helps them isolate echoes from prey from unwanted noise.



Tenrecs are small mammals that resemble hedgehogs and are native to the dry deciduous forests of Madagascar. The Lowland Streaked Tenrec, found in the eastern rainforests of Madagascar, uses echolocation to communicate with other tenrecs by tapping their quills together on their backs. And this also helps them alert each other against potential dangers, especially since they live in social groups.

However, humans cannot hear these sounds as they are ultrasonic and only audible to tenrecs in their dense forest habitat. On the other hand, the Lesser Madagascar Hedgehog Tenrec uses clicking sounds with their tongues to navigate using echolocation. Lastly, the Shrew Tenrecs use their ability to echolocate for food.


Shrew Shrews are a diverse group of mammals often mistaken for rodents due to their external appearance. However, they are actually more closely related to moles and hedgehogs. Unlike rodents with gnawing front incisor teeth, shrews have sharp, spike-like teeth. Common shrews can echolocate through high-frequency twittering and close-range spatial orientation.

These high-frequency sounds help them navigate their surroundings, and they often make these sounds while scrambling through grass and undergrowth. Some shrew species also emit much louder alarm squeaks when they feel threatened. These sounds can be difficult for humans to hear, as they reach the upper limit of human hearing.



The Dormouse is a rodent found primarily in Africa, Asia, and Europe. These furry creatures have a similar appearance to mice and are skilled climbers. The Vietnamese pygmy dormouse, native to Vietnam and certain parts of China, emits ultrasonic noises at a much higher pulse rate than some bat species when they move.

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By bouncing off sound waves, they can echolocate like a biological sonar and sense their surroundings. Since these animals have a folded retina and cannot see objects, they rely on sound waves to navigate their environment. Scientists believe their echolocation ability developed when they began to move upwards into trees over time to adopt an acrobatic lifestyle.



The Aye-Aye is an adorable furry lemur that can be found only on the island of Madagascar. They have a unique long bony finger that helps them to find and eat wood-boring grubs, much like a woodpecker. Being nocturnal, they spend up to 80% of their time foraging for food at night.

They use their elongated middle finger to tap on tree stumps and locate grubs while listening to hollow areas’ echoes. Like bats, Their highly sensitive ears allow them to hear these echoes and locate their food. The Aye-Aye’s hunting technique has earned them the nickname “percussion foragers,” making them the only primate to echolocate their prey.



Narwhals are toothed whales found commonly in Arctic waters near Greenland, Canada, and Russia. They have a large tusk from a protruding canine tooth and have the ability to echolocate. Echolocation helps them locate objects and navigate the ocean’s murky depths, which is crucial for narwhals.

These deep-diving whales spend most of their lives in complete darkness due to the ice covering the Arctic waters. They produce clicking sounds at 1,000 clicks per second to quickly detect small holes and cracks in the ice to breathe air every five minutes. They can widen and narrow the sound beam received back to find prey over long and short distances.


Dolphin The sight of dolphins gracefully moving through water and air is captivating. Like whales, dolphins can emit and receive echoes of sound waves that bounce off objects in their surroundings. However, dolphins only echolocate when submerged in water, not the air. Their “melon,” or forehead, contains fatty tissue and fluid that helps focus sound during echolocation.

The sound waves created in their nasal sacs are then focused through the melon at different frequencies, allowing them to “see” their environment using sound. Their echolocation is like ultrasound, enabling them to navigate and hunt in low light and visibility conditions and explore their environment in three dimensions.

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Bat Bats are famous for their echolocation abilities that allow them to navigate and find food in the dark. They can produce powerful and high-frequency sounds thanks to adaptations in their larynx. Their finely tuned ears recognize these ultrasound waves bouncing off objects in their environment.

Bats echolocate beyond the range of human hearing, from 9 to 200 kHz, and adjust their calls for various purposes like feeding, searching, and socializing. Each bat has its distinct call pattern, which can determine the object’s location, size, and direction of movement. The intensity and pitch of the echo help them determine the insect’s shape, size, and movement direction due to the Doppler effect.