Abstract

Action and perception are complicated by the fact that sensory information is often incomplete. Despite these informational constraints, animals interact intelligently and robustly with the world. Echolocating bats can be assumed to operate under substantial informational constraints as the information acquired by their sonar system is limited and sparse. Nevertheless, they fly swiftly through complex habitats and forage on the wing in complete darkness. Recently, the small tropical bat Micronycteris microtis was documented to glean motionless prey from vegetation. Its ability to precisely localize insects has been interpreted as evidence for the bat acquiring a detailed acoustic image of the target. Given the limitations of the sonar system, it is unclear how this detailed image would be obtained. In this paper, we present a robotic model testing an alternative hypothesis. We propose that echo loudness (differences) contain sufficient information to localize a prey item perched on a leaf. Our robot can localize prey with a precision similar to that of the bat, relying only on echo loudness. We conclude that the documented behavior of M. microtis might not require a detailed acoustic image of the prey.

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