Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Animal Hearing Series: Snakes

This post is part of a series I began with Lizards. I'm really interested in how well animals can hear. Thanks for all of your kind comments about Loki!

In the post about Lizards, we learned that they have a tympanic membrane, which picks up vibrations from the air. Snakes do not have a tympanic membrane. So, can they hear?

Green tree python
Yes!

Snakes can indeed hear. Rather than a cavity for their middle ear, they have a pericapsular recess, which is filled with air. They pick up vibrations through their body and transmit them along nerves to the inner ear. Snakes also have a bone called a quadrate which gets displaced when there is sound in the air. In response, the cochlea uses hair cells and transfers sounds to the brain. However, there is some question about how snakes use this information, if they do at all.

According to this Reptile Hearing article by Melissa Kaplan, "most snakes can hear a person speaking in a normal tone of voice in a quiet room at a distance of about 10 feet (3 m)." So a snake may even be able to respond to the sound of their name.

Sites Referenced 
Reptile Hearing - Melissa Kaplan
Shhh! The snake may hear you - John Carson 

Previous Posts in the Animal Hearing Series
Lizards

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