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|
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.
Reptile Hearing - Melissa Kaplan
Shhh! The snake may hear you - John Carson
Previous Posts in the Animal Hearing Series