A computational model for biosonar echoes from foliage

Chen Ming, Anupam Kumar Gupta, Ruijin Lu, Hongxiao Zhu, Rolf Müller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Since many bat species thrive in densely vegetated habitats, echoes from foliage are likely to be of prime importance to the animals’ sensory ecology, be it as clutter that masks prey echoes or as sources of information about the environment. To better understand the characteristics of foliage echoes, a new model for the process that generates these signals has been developed. This model takes leaf size and orientation into account by representing the leaves as circular disks of varying diameter. The two added leaf parameters are of potential importance to the sensory ecology of bats, e.g., with respect to landmark recognition and flight guidance along vegetation contours. The full model is specified by a total of three parameters: leaf density, average leaf size, and average leaf orientation. It assumes that all leaf parameters are independently and identically distributed. Leaf positions were drawn from a uniform probability density function, sizes and orientations each from a Gaussian probability function. The model was found to reproduce the first-order amplitude statistics of measured example echoes and showed time-variant echo properties that depended on foliage parameters. Parameter estimation experiments using lasso regression have demonstrated that a single foliage parameter can be estimated with high accuracy if the other two parameters are known a priori. If only one parameter is known a priori, the other two can still be estimated, but with a reduced accuracy. Lasso regression did not support simultaneous estimation of all three parameters. Nevertheless, these results demonstrate that foliage echoes contain accessible information on foliage type and orientation that could play a role in supporting sensory tasks such as landmark identification and contour following in echolocating bats.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0182824
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017


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