Sensory Biology

Blind climber

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Science  20 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6322, pp. 258-259
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6322.258-e

Vietnamese dormice rely on echolocation to navigate complex arboreal environments.

PHOTO: ALEXEI ABRAMOV/A. PANYUTINA ET AL. INTEGRATIVE ZOOLOGY (19 DECEMBER 2016) © 2016 JOHN WILEY & SONS

It is well known that bats and toothed whales use echolocation for foraging, but the use of reflected echoes for orientation has not previously been confirmed in other mammals, though many have advanced nonvisual sensory abilities. Panyutina et al. examined the rare Vietnamese dormouse (Typhlomys chapensis), an arboreal rodent with vestigial eyes, and found evidence that they not only use echolocation for orientation, but do so to navigate complex arboreal environments with no visual assistance, because their retinae are nonfunctional. The rarity of the species makes it difficult to study, but these results could lead to the finding of echolocation across more species within the family and may help to solve ongoing debates about the evolution of echolocation.

Integr. Zool. 10.1111/1749-4877.12249 (2016).

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