Ear Deformations Give Bats a Physical Mechanism for Fast Adaptation of Ultrasonic Beam Patterns
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A large number of mammals, including humans, have intricate outer ear shapes that diffract incoming sound in a direction-and frequency-specific manner. Through this physical process, the outer ear shapes encode sound-source information into the sensory signals from each ear. Our results show that horseshoe bats could dynamically control these diffraction processes through fast nonrigid ear deformations. The bats' ear shapes can alter between extreme configurations in about 100 ms and thereby change their acoustic properties in ways that would suit different acoustic sensing tasks.