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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how animals such as bats and dolphins evolved to use high frequency sounds to navigate their environments and find their prey.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how some bats, dolphins and other animals emit sounds at high frequencies to explore their environments, rather than sight. This was such an unlikely possibility, to natural historians from C18th onwards, that discoveries were met with disbelief even into the C20th; it was assumed that bats found their way in the dark by touch. Not all bats use echolocation, but those that do have a range of frequencies for different purposes and techniques for preventing themselves becoming deafened by their own sounds. Some prey have evolved ways of detecting when bats are emitting high frequencies in their direction, and some fish have adapted to detect the sounds dolphins use to find them.


Kate Jones
Professor of Ecology and Biodiversity at University College London

Gareth Jones
Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol


Dean Waters
Lecturer in the Environment Department at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

51 minutes

Last on

Thu 21 Jun 2018 21:30


Gareth Jones at the University of Bristol

Kate Jones at University College London

Dean Waters at the University of York

Bat Conservation Trust

Acoustic Monitoring For Conservation and Ecological Research – WWF

Mexico’s Chattiest Bats – Science magazine

‘Echolocation’ by Gareth Jones, Current Biology (2005)

Animal Echolocation – Wikipedia



Michel Barataud, Acoustic Ecology of European Bats: Species Identification, Study of their Habitats and Foraging Behaviour (French National Museum of Natural History, 2016)

Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (Longman, 1986), especially chapter 2

M. Denny, Blip, Ping and Buzz: Making Sense of Radar and Sonar (Johns Hopkins Press, 2007)

Christian Dietz and Andreas Kiefer, Bats of Britain and Europe (Bloomsbury Natural History, 2016)

Johan Ekloef and Jens Rydell, Bats: In a World of Echoes (Springer International Publishing, 2018)

Donald R. Griffin, Listening in the Dark: Acoustic Orientation of Bats and Men (first published 1974; Cornell University Press, 1986)

Kate E. Jones and Allyson Walsh, A Guide to British Bats (Field Studies Council, 2001)

Neil Middleton, Andrew Froud and Keith French, Social Calls of the Bats of Britain and Ireland (Pelagic Publishing, 2014)

Jon Russ, British Bat Calls: A Guide to Species Identification (Pelagic Publishing, 2012)

Jeanette Thomas, Cynthia Moss and Marianne Vater, Echolocation in Bats and Dolphins (University of Chicago Press, 2004)



Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Gareth Jones
Interviewed Guest Kate Jones
Interviewed Guest Dean Waters
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 21 Jun 2018 09:00
  • Thu 21 Jun 2018 21:30

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