Dolphins use echolocation not only to hear but also to see!

Breakthrough: Dolphins use echolocation not only to hear but also to see!


A recent finding in the field of science and technology is something pertaining to one of the world’s most loved animals – the dolphin. From a recent study, it has been concluded that dolphins use echolocation to produce images. Read along to know more about it.

1 What is echolocation?

Sonar is a term most of us have made ourselves familiar with, since those 9th grade Physics lessons on sound and radiation. Sound Navigation and Ranging refers to the technique that uses the propagation of sound to navigate, communicate and detect objects on or under the surface of the water, like other vessels.

We also learned that animals make use of a slightly tweaked version of this ‘technology’, that is inbuilt in their systems. Sort of a bio-sonar, otherwise known as echolocation.

Okay so, we sort of get the picture. It’s the same as active sonar, but using sounds made by the animal itself, like the ultrasound of bats. But doesn’t this concern only the sense of hearing? Where does imaging come into the picture?

This is where CymaScope comes into the picture. Dolphins use echolocation, and CymaScope uses those echoes to produce results.

What is echolocation?

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2 So, what’s CymaScope now?

The CymaScope is a new type of scientific instrument that makes sound visible. The development of this device began in 2002 and initially a prototype was built that featured a thin, circular, P.V.C. membrane. Later on, this P.V.C membrane was replaced by latex.

Dolphins use echolocation in the form of clicking sounds or ‘clicking trains’. The CymaScope technology, in tandem with 3D printers was used in the imaging of these sounds.

So, what's CymaScope now?

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3 Brains behind this discovery

Jack Kassewitz, the leader of the research team/founder of and John Stuart Reid, the inventor of CymaScope, both from, are the brains behind the ‘What-the-dolphin-saw’ sound images. Kassewitz had this to state –

“We’ve been working on dolphin communication for more than a decade. When we discovered that dolphins not exposed to the echolocation experiment could identify objects from recorded dolphin sounds with 92% accuracy, we began to look for a way to see what was in those sounds.”

Adam B. Dorfman, recently published a book that goes by the name, “Conceptual Revolutions in Science: A Collection of Scientific Explorations and Interviews”, in which he sings the praises of Reid and Kassewitz for their work regarding sound imaging, cymatics and much more.

Brains behind this discovery

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4 Cymatic Holographic Imaging Technique

What basically went down was, a dolphin’s echolocation beam was directed at a submerged man and the echo was captured by a hydrophone system. The echo signal was then sent to, which created the first ever ‘what-the-dolphin-saw’ image of this submerged man, and this was done by using a cymatic-holographic imaging technique.

The resulting image was rather vague but following some enhancement techniques, the major key features of the man and background were made visible. The research took place at the Dolphin Discovery Centre in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico.

A video of the images recorded, that is, what the dolphin saw, can be viewed here.

Similar to this breakthrough, researchers in the United States and the United Kingdom have made news by decoding dolphin language in which a series of eight objects have been sonically identified by dolphins. Jack Kassewitz actually ‘spoke’ to the dolphins in their very own sound picture words.

Cymatic Holographic Imaging Technique

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About the author / 

Richa Dwivedi Sharma