Echolocation is the ability to obtain spatial information of the surroundings from echos generated by the animal. There are bats and other vertebrates that naturally use it.

I was wondering if this is limited to vertebrates, or if there are examples among the invertebrate, especially insects.


Some moth actually do use clicks for their own echolocation: "Noctuid moths (Noctuidae) are the only group of invertebrates for whom echolocation was demonstrated":

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    $\begingroup$ Cool. Thanks for the references. It's good to know some people believe in it, but those articles have no citation and are published in somewhat minor journals. So I must say I don't fully trust them. Do you know of any other group replicating their results? $\endgroup$
    – Memming
    Oct 3 '13 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ Well, I would of course keep some degree of skepsis. And I'm not aware of something published by other research groups: it's true, that they provide principally only self citations. But this, coupled with the fact, that nearly all of the papers of this lab were originally published in Russian, is just another example of the continuation of the Soviet school. I can confirm, that the author still considers his findings valid and has a very elaborated description of the story and his experiments (in Russian): lapshin.iitp.ru/project1/index.htm $\endgroup$
    – alephreish
    Oct 3 '13 at 21:13

As others have indicated, I also haven't seen direct evidence of echolocation in insects. However, there is much evidence that the auditory system of e.g. moths can hear ultrasound generated by bats (Waters, 2003). According to Waters (2003) moths mainly use this to avoid predation. The review also contain many useful references and examples of moth ultrasound detection, and specifics on the physiological adaptations. Since moths apparantly can detect ultrasounds (and generate them), this also opens the possibility that some species could use it for echolocation. But from what I have seen, no direct evidence.

In general, many insects use high-frequency sounds, but we often do not know exactly for what purpose. If you are interested, this webpage on sounds in butterflies (in Swedish) have a couple of examples that you can listen to (recorded by a professor emeritus as my old department). Look at the subpages for each species for embedded .wav where the ultasounds are played in slowmotion. Again, the exact use of these sounds are mostly unknown, but they are believed to be used to attrach mates or scare predators, but might potentially (if we are speculating) be used for echolocation in some species.


As far as I can tell, the answer is no. It's hard to prove a negative so the best I can do is that none of the articles in the literature I've been able to comb through have any mention of invertebrates at all. What I can give you is that some moths use clicks to jam bat echolocation and some fish are sensitive to echolocation, "raising the possibility that fish may exhibit negative phonotactic behaviour in the way that moths do."


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