The larynx and an organ on the head of dolphins detect and identify shapes of objects by sending and detecting sonar.

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“Moving at such speeds, navigation becomes critically important. Fish are helped by their lateral line system, but mammals lost that far back in their ancestry and the toothed whales have instead a system based on the sounds used by shrews and elaborated by bats, sonar. Dolphins produce the ultra-sound with larynx and maybe an organ in the front of the head, the melon. The frequencies they use are around 200,000 vibrations a second, which is comparable to those used by bats. With its aid, they can not only sense obstacles in their path, but identify from the quality of the echo, the nature of the objects ahead. This can be demonstrated easily enough for dolphins flourish in oceanaria and eagerly cooperate in training. Blindfolded dolphins demonstrate that they can, without difficulty, pick out particular shapes of floating rings and will swiftly swim through the water, with blindfolds on their eyes, and exultantly collect on their snout the one shape that they know will bring a reward.” (Attenborough 1979:243)

Life on Earth: A Natural HistoryOctober 1, 1981
David Attenborough

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