The role of various structures in the head on the formation of the biosonar beam of the baiji (Lipotes vexillifer)
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The relative role of the various structures in the head of the baiji (Lipotes vexillifer) is examined. A finite element approach was applied to numerically simulate the acoustic propagation through a dolphin's head to examine the relative role of the skull, air sacs, and melon in the formation of the biosonar beam in the vertical plane. The beam pattern obtained with the whole head in place is compared with the beam pattern when the air sac is removed and the other structures (skull and melon) are in place, with only the skull removed, and finally with only the melon removed. The beam pattern with the air sacs and skull intact and the melon removed closely resembled the beam pattern for the complete head, suggesting that the melon has a minor role in the formation of the beam. The beam pattern for the other two cases had very little resemblance to the beam pattern for the whole head. The air sacs seem to have a role of directing propagation of the signal toward the front and the skull prevents the sound propagating below the rostrum. The beam patterns along with a correlation analysis showed that the melon had only a slight influence on the shape and direction of the beam. The resultant beam exiting the head of the dolphin is the result of complex reflection processes within the head of the animal.
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