Echolocation

This is just me thinking out loud and having more questions than answers. If anyone has the answers, let me know.

I was listening to a radio documentary (I think it was called “Ocean Mind”) on CBC Radio late last night, about how dolphins and whales perceive their world. Among other things, it talked about how echolocation (or sonar) may provide levels of social intimacy well outside the range of human experience.

One way is that since sound waves can travel through flesh, dolphins can see inside each other’s bodies. Another is that dolphins can intercept each other’s echoes, and effectively “see” what someone else is looking at.

Can unborn dolphins pick up on returning clicks that their mothers send out, and can they “see” the world around them from long before they’re born (or at least as long as they have sufficiently developed organs to detect the sound)? Would it be nonsensical without any other senses for frame of reference?

For that matter, how much learning or brain pathway development can a human fetus do before it’s born, when it can hear things from outside its mother’s body? As far as I know, babies who are born deaf don’t seem to have suffered intellectually from not having been able to hear before they were born.

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