My kids were scared when they saw the little dark shadows flitting around the front yard, and they just begged me to come back inside the house.
But I was simply transfixed on the little bats swooping and darting around the front yard. Bats get a bad rap, of course, but it was a great chance to tell my kiddos how beneficial they really are, mainly because they eat one of my kids’ most dreaded foes: mosquitos.
What is really amazing is how bats communicate using extremely high pitches, known as ultrasound, which they use in echolocation.
Pitches that are above the normal human hearing range are known as ultrasound, and pitches that are below the normal hearing range are known as infrasound.
There is a wide range of animals using both ultrasound and infrasound. Some may be able to create these sounds, while others can only hear them.
In this article, we’re going to talk about animals that use either ultrasound or infrasound to communicate. We’ll go over some of the most well-known animals first, then give you some extra detail on the top four.
Animals that Use Ultrasound
Ultrasound is any sound that is higher than the average human can hear. This is typically anything over 20 kilohertz. Initially, it was thought that only bats could use ultrasonic noise to make up for being blind, but over time, other animals using ultrasonic noise were discovered. In addition, equipment once used to study bats helped scientists discover other animals that use these frequencies.
Bats aren’t really blood-sucking, blind vampires, although they are often portrayed that way. But bats do use echolocation for hunting and for navigation. Echolocation is when bats emit very high-pitched noises, which bounce off of objects and their prey and bounce back to their ears.
Echolocation helps them to map out where their prey is so they can swoop in and gobble it up. But, according to the National Park Service, different species of bats have different patterns to their call, and each species has different calls for hunting, searching, and socializing.
If you’re worried about bats sucking your blood, don’t! They are intelligent animals with intricate navigational and communication skills.
I was completely surprised that moths have such acute hearing. In fact, the Greater Wax Moth probably has the best hearing in all of the known animal world. Their hearing is so good that they can hear bats’ echolocation and escape from being a bat dinner.
Moths aren’t the only bugs on the ultrasound list! Praying mantises, once thought to be completely deaf, actually have a single ear located in their thorax or chest area.
And according to the National Wildlife Federation, they can hear sounds as high as a bat’s chirp, giving them the chance to escape being preyed upon.
Dolphins can also use echolocation to communicate, but they are able to send out two frequencies simultaneously. Science Daily believes that dolphins must have two distinct sound-producing organs, rather than just one. They use these sounds to communicate with each other.
I’m sure you’re not surprised that dogs can use ultrasound. Silent dog whistles were once a popular means of getting your dog’s attention. These whistles are considered silent to the human ear but not so much to your furry friend’s ears. This is because dogs have excellent hearing and can hear much higher sounds than humans can.
Frogs and Toads
Frogs and toads also make use of ultrasonic noises. For example, the torrent frog lives among noisy waterfalls that make it hard to hear lower-pitched sounds.
So instead, it uses high-pitched calls, similar to a bird song but higher than humans can detect, to communicate and mate. Researchers tell ABC science that these ultrasonic sounds are able to be heard above the noisy roar of the waterfalls so the frogs can communicate with each other.
Cattle have extremely sensitive hearing and can hear frequencies much higher than even a dog whistle can produce. Beefmagazine.com explains that this sensitive hearing can make them nervous when it comes to handling, so you should minimize noise as much as possible. When nervous or scared, they can produce pheromones in their excrement, which tells other cattle there is danger.
Cats are creatures with extremely heightened senses. You might be shocked to find out that cats hear even better than dogs! And while they can easily tune in to ultrasonic frequencies, they don’t actually use them to communicate, according to catalogical.com. Their incredible hearing can detect frequencies much higher than humans can hear.
Rats can produce and hear ultrasonic frequencies that humans cannot. In fact, they tend to make these noises when they are stressed and injured or when they are happy or wanting to mate, says ratbehavior.org.
For example, baby rats make an extremely high-pitched sound if the mother accidentally steps on them., alerting her to the problem. Additionally, rats are ticklish, and when tickled by humans, they can also emit ultrasonic noise that is similar to laughter.
Tarsiers are tiny primates that use ultrasonic sounds to find their dinner and hide from predators. Tarsiers dine on insects such as katydids, which also use ultrasonic noises.
The Tarsiers can hone in on these sounds in order to find their supper! But they can also talk to each other using high-frequency sounds that can go unnoticed by the predators around them, according to science.org.
Male katydids serenade their ladies at frequencies higher than humans can hear. They do this by scraping their wings together – one wing has ‘teeth,’ and the other has a scraper.
When rubbed together, the two wings make sounds; some sounds humans can hear. Some sounds humans can’t hear. According to the Journal of Biology, some katydids make even higher ultrasonic frequencies because their scraper is attached to a larger, bendy piece of the cuticle.
Infrasound is sort of the opposite of ultrasound. It is a spectrum of frequencies that are lower than the human ear can detect, generally lower than 20hz. While humans cannot hear these sounds, some people believe that they can feel these sounds and respond with nausea, anxiety, and stress.
Some animals that make use of infrasound can detect natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis even before they happen. They also use infrasound to communicate because it travels further through dense underbrush and water. Check out these animals that use infrasound!
A rhino can make a whistling sound followed by a blast of air that can’t be heard by human ears. However, this sound can travel 12 miles and even make iron bars resonate!
Rhinos use infrasound to communicate to each other.
According to the Animal Communication Project, hippos can communicate with infrasound in stereo – both above and underwater. This helps them send messages to other hippos about where their territory is – so they can avoid conflict with other hippos.
Elephants have huge vocal cords and ears, which means they can make and hear sounds that humans just can’t. They use this ability to communicate with each other and detect natural disasters.
Baleen whales use infrasound to communicate over large bodies of water – as big as an ocean basin, says the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh. These deep, low sounds travel further than higher-pitched sounds.
Octopus and Squids
An octopus can indeed hear. And it uses a structure called a statocyst to hear infrasounds such as dolphin noises, motor noises from boats, and even to avoid predators and communicate with each other, according to Star News.
Pigeons may be one of the most fascinating of infrasound- hearing animals. They can hear sounds as low as 0.5 Hz, which means that they can detect upcoming storms, earthquakes, and even volcanoes. And they use their infrasound hearing to know where to go and create their own navigational maps.
Crocodiles and Alligators
Crocs and gators are known for being aggressive. But they can make and hear infrasounds – and they use them to warn other gators to stay away.
Cuttlefish can hear predators approach due to their innate ability to hear infrasounds. They can hear frequencies and water particle disruptions that humans cannot, giving them the opportunity for a quick getaway when predators – and even people – approach, according to qz.com.
Codfish, on the other hand, may use infrasound to relay and take in information about their migration.
Guinea fowl are used on small farms and homesteads as alarm systems. These birds are sensitive to noises and quick to sound the alarm with loud squawks and calls. They may not be able to produce these low-frequency sounds, but they can hear and respond to these deep disturbances.
Tigers have large vocal cords and rely on their deep roars to keep away rivals and attract mates. These roars can be so low that even humans can’t hear them!
Animals with Extra Special Ultrasound and Infrasound Skills
These animals all have in common – along with many that probably haven’t been discovered yet – amazing hearing and the capacity to make either infrasound or ultrasound noises. But, of these animals, there are a few that really stand out!
As we mentioned before, moths have excellent hearing. And the greater wax moth is known to have the best hearing out of all of the animals known to science.
They are able to hear frequencies as high as 300kHz, which is 15 times what the human ear can detect, according to hiddenhearing.co, this incredible hearing serves an essential purpose for the moth.
A moth’s worst predator is a bat. Bats use echolocation for hunting, which gives them the ability to pinpoint the moth’s location. The moth, however, can hear the bat’s chatter, giving it a chance to quietly disappear before it becomes dinner!
Tigers use infrasound to attract mates and deter rival tigers. These deep sounds that humans can’t hear can travel up to five miles. Tigers use infrasounds because they aren’t as easily affected by dense forests or high humidity.
Humans may not be able to distinguish one tiger’s sound from another, but tigers can.
They know who their mates are, who their cubs are, and who their moms are, all because of deep, low sounds, according to newscientist.com. And although humans can’t hear these sounds, the shape of a tiger’s inner ear portrays that it certainly can.
We all love elephants for their heartwarming stories about how they take care of their babies and each other. We love their excellent memories and their social bonds, as well as their huge ears.
But these huge ears serve several purposes. Although one is to help in cooling off these giant beasts, another purpose of these large ears is to hear sounds that humans cannot.
Elephants have large vocal cords that can make these deep calls which travel up to a mile. They can hear and feel these calls with their feet and get an idea of how far away their fellow elephants happen to be. They can relay information to each other this way, as well.
It is thought that elephants can communicate over long distances using infrasound. But scientists are now studying whether or not they can also hear natural disasters before they occur.
For example, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanos may produce sounds deeper than humans can hear before the danger is evident.
However, elephants may be able to hear these sounds and communicate the threat to other elephants, according to PBS in a story about elephants running from a tsunami.
As we mentioned the tarsiers earlier, these tiny primates are the only primates to be able to use infrasound. As a result, they can share their whereabouts as well as the locations of their favorite insect snacks.
The calls can be heard over background noise and are so high-pitched that it is difficult for predators to hear.
Scientists speculate that other primates may have originally had the same talent but lost it over the years since it wasn’t necessary for their survival.