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How snakes hear without having to listen

How snakes hear
Many people believe that snakes are deaf. This assumption is due largely to the fact that snakes have no outer ear. They do however have an inner ear and are quite capable of hearing.

We know sound travels in waves that are invisible to the naked eye. Those waves vibrate our ear drums at different frequencies and we hear the results. A snake’s hearing works in much the same way except instead of invisible sound waves in the air a snake “hears” vibrations that travel through the ground.

The basic design of a snakes hearing
Anytime something moves across the ground it creates vibrations. This also includes animals and people. Most animals don’t take notice of these vibrations but a snake does. When the wave reaches the snake it is picked up by the bones and muscles in the snakes lower jaw. These vibrations are focused into an organ called the cochlea that gathers the sound for processing by the inner ear of the snake.

The advanced design of how a snake hears
For a long time it was believed that snakes could “hear” but couldn’t localize sounds. In other words they couldn’t pinpoint where something was and had to rely on their poor eyesight and keen sense of smell to home in on their prey.

Science has discovered that the elasticity of a snakes jaw allows it to localize vibrations traveling through the ground aiding the snake in determining which direction a sound is coming from.

You can find more details about how this works in this article that gives an overview of a study done by University of Munich and University of Kansas researchers. The overview is that the snakes hinged jaw allows them to pick up the vibrations independently of one another depending on which side they come from.

There is evidence according to the study that the auditory neurons of the snake actually create a topographical map which allows them to pin-point prey by the vibrations they create. In a nutshell it is a form of echolocation.

  • vishesh chandra

    i am totall confused about this article becouse many people and doctors have said that snakes dosent have eara or in one word they r deff in nature but hear in this article u have mentioned thet snakes can hear so plese clear me about this confission please

  • windfart

    vishesh chandra i dont know why you are so confused because it is a very simple concept.
    Docters may have said snakes can not hear but this theory is the past. It is now proved that snakes can hear.
    The snake obviously does not have an outer ear but they do pick up vibrations via the ground as the artical says

  • Justine

    good article! I had always known snakes were NOT deaf, could sense vibrations, etc. but when researching carpet pythons a few moments ago, I found a recent breed profile on carpet and chilrens pythons by a notable austrailian (where these pythons originate) reptile “expert” who may actually be a vet who said snakes were deaf! Confused, I wondered if I had it wrong -I’m very prone to self doubt lol!! So I googled it and found out that I was actually right and this man giveing reptile advice to his native austrailia and any other person from anywhere via the internet was WRONG! decided to research more about how snakes hear and came across this lovely article, explains it well without being too long wordy or confusing!

  • Pmay1

    If snakes can hear then why do they not leave the area when a loud lawn mower is running and they end up getting chopped in half? 

  • http://pet-snakes.com Pet Snakes

    Because they don’t know the danger of a lawn mower. More importantly why are you running over snakes or anything else with a lawn mower?

  • http://pet-snakes.com Pet Snakes

    Thank you

  • L*****

    So, for example, could a snake be trained to respond a certain way to a whistle? Think about it. Read “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”.

  • Sohrabjcs

    why does a snack sway and dance when the flute is played

  • http://pet-snakes.com Pet Snakes

    It follows the movement of the flute and the flute player as they sway back and forth.

  • pepeturtle

    I’m sure the running over of the snakes or other critters is unintentional.

  • http://pet-snakes.com Pet Snakes

    Maybe, maybe not…

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