In a world first, scientists have been able to capture how dolphins use sound waves to create a perception of the world around them.
To record the echolocation signals, scientists from Miami and the United Kingdom used a technique called CymaScope, an imaging process which is able to imprint sonic vibrations of water.
The researchers from Speak Dolphin put their colleague, Jim McDonough, into a research tank at Dolphin Discovery Center in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico along with a female dolphin called Amaya. As Amaya directed her echolocation clicks towards McDonough, the sound waves that bounced back were recorded on the CymaScope equipment.
Part of the effectiveness of echolocation is its ability to perceive depth, so the scientists then sent this data to the United Kingdom for “photo analysis,” where John Stuart Reid, inventor of the CymaScope, extracted three-dimensional data from the two-dimensional images. Eventually, the researchers generated a 3D print of a human outline created by the dolphin.
“When a dolphin scans an object with its high frequency sound beam, each short click captures a still image, similar to a camera taking photographs,” Reid said in a statement. “Each dolphin click is a pulse of pure sound that becomes modulated by the shape of the object.”
Discovery News reported that this is just an initial insight into how dolphins perceive their echolocation signal, and the researchers hope that more precise images will be produced as the technology becomes more finely tuned.
“We were thrilled by the first successful print of a cube by the brilliant team at 3D Systems,” Jack Kassewitz, research team leader and founder of Speak Dolphin, said in the statement. “But seeing the 3D print of a human being left us all speechless. For the first time ever, we may be holding in our hands a glimpse into what cetaceans see with sound. Nearly every experiment is bringing us more images with more detail.”
Check out the amazing image below.
image credit: DolphinSpeak.com