Snakes are special animals, with their limbless bodies, snapping tongues and the capability to feast on victim whole. They primarily count on their sense of odor to hunt victim, although they do utilize sight and sound too. But do snakes have ears?
Yes and no, Sara Ruane, a herpetologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, informed Live Science. Like numerous reptiles, snakes do not have an external ear structure. However, they do have ear bones in their heads that they utilize to hear.
“When you think about animals, whether it’s a dog or a jack rabbit, they hear a noise in a different direction and shift their external ear in order to better capture that sound in case it happens again,” Ruane stated. “An internal ear is the part where the actual nuts and bolts of hearing happen.” Snakes just have the nuts and bolts part of the ear.
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Ears are generally comprised of 3 huge parts. The external ear focuses noise on the eardrum, which separates the external ear from the middle ear. The middle ear consists of 3 bones that send noise from the eardrum to the inner ear through vibrations. The inner ear turns these vibrations into nerve impulses that take a trip to the brain.
Snakes do not have both an external ear and middle ear, according to a 2012 research study in the Journal of Experimental Biology. However, they have one middle ear bone that links the inner ear to the jaw. This makes it possible for snakes to hear vibrations, such as a predator sneaking more detailed on the forest flooring. However, they’re not as skilled at hearing noises transferred through the air.
Due to this ear setup, snakes hear just a narrow series of frequencies. They can hear radio frequencies however low frequencies, due to the fact that those noises are primarily transferred through the air. For example, royal pythons are best at hearing frequencies in between 80 and160 Hertz, according to the 2012 research study. For contrast, the regular human frequency variety is 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, according to “Neuroscience” (Sinauer Associates, Inc. 2001).
“If you were swimming and went underwater, and somebody standing next to the pool shouted to you, you would hear them,” Ruane stated. “You might not be able to make out the details … That’s sort of what snakes are hearing at higher frequencies.”
This narrow series of hearing isn’t an issue for snakes, partially due to the fact that they do not utilize vocalizations to interact with each other. The vocalizations they make, such as hissing or grumbling, are at greater frequencies than they hear at and are most likely meant for bird and mammal predators, according to the research study.
The larger reason that snakes do not require delicate hearing is due to the fact that they count on other senses. Their sense of odor is especially beneficial. “Snakes are flicking their tongues out, picking up all the odor molecules that are in the air in the vicinity, bringing that back into a specialized organ they have for processing that, and to their brain,” Ruane stated. So although they do not have an opportunity at out-hearing most other animals, “snakes are the chemosensory kings.”
Originally released on Live Science.