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This article is part of the Research Topic How nature shaped echolocation in animals

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Front. Physiol., 15 April 2013 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2013.00052

Echolocation by the harbor porpoise: life in coastal waters

  • 1Institute of Biology, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
  • 2Fjord&Bælt, Kerteminde, Denmark

The harbor porpoise is one of the smallest and most widely spread of all toothed whales. They are found abundantly in coastal waters all around the northern hemisphere. They are among the 11 species known to use high frequency sonar of relative narrow bandwidth. Their narrow biosonar beam helps isolate echoes from prey among those from unwanted items and noise. Obtaining echoes from small objects like net mesh, net floats, and small prey is facilitated by the very high peak frequency around 130 kHz with a wavelength of about 12 mm. We argue that such echolocation signals and narrow band auditory filters give the harbor porpoise a selective advantage in a coastal environment. Predation by killer whales and a minimum noise region in the ocean around 130 kHz may have provided selection pressures for using narrow bandwidth high frequency biosonar signals.

Keywords: echolocation, biosonar, hearing, harbor porpoise, Phocoena phocoena, noise, clutter, coastal waters

Citation: Miller LA and Wahlberg M (2013) Echolocation by the harbor porpoise: life in coastal waters. Front. Physiol. 4:52. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2013.00052

Received: 11 January 2013; Accepted: 05 March 2013;
Published online: 15 April 2013.

Edited by:

Mariana L. Melcón, Fundación Cethus, Argentina

Reviewed by:

Kenneth Dormer, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center; NanoMed Targeting Systems. Inc., USA
Kathleen M. Dudzinski, Dolphin Communication Project, USA

Copyright: © 2013 Miller and Wahlberg. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Lee A. Miller, Institute of Biology, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, 5230 Odense M, Denmark. e-mail: lee@biology.sdu.dk