Can Snakes Hear or Are They Deaf? Do Snakes Have Ears?

Snakes cannot hear noises in the same manner that people can because they lack human-like eardrums and external ears. However, calling them deaf is incorrect. There are now two theories among scientists on how snakes might “hear” or detect noises. Moving large creatures create sound waves that go across the atmosphere.  The ground also transmits its vibrations.  Researchers have discovered that snakes’ skin and muscles can sense these vibrations in the earth and transfer them to their brains. After that, they may cause a defensive reaction that involves immobility.

Eight snake-related myths

 Snakes Hear

Given the variety of snake species found in Victoria, it makes sense that the Museum gets a lot of questions on how to handle bothersome snakes. Due to the need for clarification, several questions and comments wander from these typical requests. The most common snake myths and how to avoid them are below.

1. A milk dish attracts snakes

 Snakes Hear

It is one of the most popular myths, which may have roots in North and South America’s Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum). The locals thought the snakes were consuming the milk from the cows’ udders when they saw the snakes vanishing inside barns in quest of rodents. It’s unlikely that cows would stare helplessly while reptiles consume dairy products. Snakes will drink milk if they are sufficiently dehydrated, but they will consume almost anything if they are thirsty.

2.  Blue tongue Lizards and shingle backs deter garden snakes

 Snakes Hear

Snakes consume other snakes, as well as lizards and frogs. Snakes Hear like the Orange-naped Snake below consume skinks.  Blue-tongue Lizards may hunt on newly born snakes of other species, but as the snakes mature, the opposite is often true.

3.  A headless snake may live till nightfall

Australia’s rural areas are especially fond of this tale. This tale is entirely untrue, it could have originated from the observation that a decapitated snake’s corpse would wriggle for a while.

4. When threatened, a mother snake will consume her young

The mouthbrooding fish and the now-extinct gastric-brooding frog (Rheobatrachus species) also seem to swallow their young. Still, any snake consumed by another snake would instantly perish from the digestive secretions.

5. Snakes travel in pairs at all times

Generally speaking, courting and mating are the only times two snakes are together. If not, the more enormous snake will often devour the smaller one after killing it.

6.  A snake’s companion will pursue you if you kill it.

Snakes cannot recognize and recall an attacker, as well as any social relationship or cognition. Bollywood may have primarily generated this misconception.

7. The Hoop Snake circles itself, eats its tail, and rolls down slopes

Another widespread myth in Australia’s rural areas, but sadly, there isn’t a snake like that.  The story is also famous in the US and Canada, where 1700s papers exist. It could have origins in the Greek symbol ouroboros, which represents perpetual rebirth and shows a snake biting its tail.

8. Snails lack hearing

Despite not having eardrums, snakes have inner ears that can detect low-frequency aerial noises and vibrations from the ground. They do find it challenging to hear higher-pitched noises.

And now for a few widespread myths

Snakes are slimy and chilly

In actuality, snakeskin is dry and may feel extremely warm and velvety, depending on the ambient temperature.

Snakes are toxic

In theory, snakes are venomous rather than toxic. By no means are they all poisonous, however. Out of all the 140 species of terrestrial snakes, Australia has the most significant percentage of poisonous native snakes in the world (100), yet very few of them are deadly when they bite a person. Drinking, breathing, or touching poisons is different from injecting venom into the circulation.

The snakes are coming for you

Compared to Australian snakes, humans are more robust, bigger, and typically quicker. Humans are unquestionably among the many predators of snakes. When you encounter a snake, it frequently surprises you, just as you do. You avoid most conflicts when the snake vanishes as you approach. A startled snake, especially when confronted with a potential predator 50 times its size, will choose the closest escape path and try to vanish as fast as possible. But snakes don’t always choose the best path out of danger since they often have poor vision. A snake will often stand and defend itself as a final option if it feels trapped.

During the spring mating season, snake behavior may also become more unpredictable, with females being more protective in the presence of eggs or young. But in Australia, most human bites of snakes happen when someone chooses not to leave the snake alone.

When they eat, snakes dislocate their jaws

Snakes do not have fused mandibles as humans have. The lower jaw’s movable ligaments allow for much mouth expansion. Therefore, extreme flexibility rather than dislocation is the mechanism.

Pythons squeeze their victim till they suffocate

According to recent studies, pythons kill their victims by stopping their blood flow rather than by breathing. A constricting snake stops its prey’s heart immediately, and shortly after, respiration ceases as well.

For the record, here are some last tips to keep snakes out of your yard

  • Eliminate possible food sources, which are often rodents in this situation.
  •  Snakes will have fewer food sources if you keep your yard free of rodents. 
  • Eliminate sources of open water. 
  • Water appeals to snakes, who must routinely consume it to stay alive.
  • Take down any cover, such as tin sheets on the ground, rock mounds, or firewood stacks.
  • Leave space unoccupied all around your home. 
  • Make careful to trim overgrown plants, remove fallen limbs, and keep the grass mowed short.
  •  Most snakes would rather not travel across large areas of open terrain.
  •  Repair any holes in the structure.
  •  When the weather is warm and dry, snakes will reside in homes or barns.
  •  They can squeeze through any opening bigger than your thumb.
  •  Cover all possible access sites with wire mesh with holes no more significant than 1-centimeter square.

Snakes Can Hear Vibrations in the Earth

If snakes had to choose, their preferred senses would most likely be taste and eyesight. However, snakes continue to perceive sound in their environment. Over the last 20 years, many studies have demonstrated that snakes hear stimuli via ground-borne sound waves. Snakes have no external ears or eardrums.

The pathway that allows vibrations to reach the cochlea and the thinking brain is the jawbone, which often rests on the ground. J. Leo van Hemmen, a theoretical biophysics professor at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, asserts that these vibrations may pass through sand, dirt, and the tree limb they are resting on, among other things. Consider the desert horned viper (Cerastes cerastes), which, according to van Hemmen, can tell when a mouse passes by only observing the ripples its prey’s footfalls create in the sand. He provided a detailed biological explanation of the functioning of this system inside the snake’s body in an article from 2008.

Additionally, snakes have the airborne hearing

As per a recent study, snakes can detect sound in the air in addition to ground vibrations, according to the journal PLOS One. Researchers chose 19 slithering specimens from five distinct captive snake categories—death adders (Acanthophis), brown snakes (Pseudonaja), pale-headed snakes (Hoplocephalus), taipans (Oxyuranus), and woma pythons (Aspidites)—to test this. These two snake species are among the world’s most poisonous.

Subsequently, they individually placed the snakes in a large, soundproof chamber and exposed them to three distinct pink noise frequencies ranging from 0 to 450 hertz. Of them, two just transmitted sound via the air; one also generated vibrations into the ground. According to Christina Zdenek, a researcher at the University of Queensland’s Venom Evolution Lab and one of the study’s key authors, “It sounds like you’re in… an airplane going slow, or an airplane going medium or fast.”

The noise volume was 85 dB, similar to a human scream

The researchers conducted this exercise more than 300 times, observing the snakes’ reactions to the noises and any bodily movements they made, such as freezing, hissing, lowering their jaws, and flicking their heads or tongues. Their studies showed that the noises that caused vibrations in the ground, as well as those that were in the air, drove the snakes to respond considerably.

Variations in Snake Reaction to Sound 

Naturally, even in this particular trial, each species seemed to respond to sound somewhat differently. They have the same predators and feeding strategy, so it makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, according to Zdenek. “Therefore, they would have to have similar reactions and interpret their environment similarly.”

The most probable reaction from Taipans was to bolt from the sound and become defensive. They regularly hissed, flicked their heads, lowered their jaws in preparation for a bite, and engaged in a behavior known as fixation, in which they held their heads steady on an object while coiling the rest of their bodies frighteningly. Zdenek says, “Taipans are extremely sensitive, acutely aware species.” In the real world, they have to be on the lookout for predatory birds that might consider them to be food.

How Vertebrates Hear

Bruce Young, an A.T. Still University researcher and professor in Missouri who was not involved in the study, says these new findings help us understand if snakes can hear sound via the air.  It is particularly true when it comes to species of snakes that we were previously unaware of.

The new research raises the question of how snakes do this

According to Young, “Research like this demonstrates quite clearly that snakes do respond to what we would refer to as sound.” However, there is a distinction between the physiological reaction and the behavioral response that we see. There are several methods by which snakes may react to outside stimuli.

According to Young’s study from 2002, diamondback rattlesnakes may react to noises in the air. However, in both those earlier and more recent findings, the sound may still be causing the snake’s surface to vibrate; can we classify it as hearing? Young suggests that there might not be much difference between feeling vibrations from the surface of the head and the belly or lower jaw. Young cites a 2012 study that suggests snakes use their skulls to detect vibrations, particularly those in the air, to hear everything.

Conclusion

Because they do not have external ears or eardrums as humans do, snakes are not deaf. They can pick up vibrations from the soil and send them to their brains, where they trigger a protective response. Eight myths exist about snakes:

  • That a milk dish attracts snakes.
  • That shingle backs, and blue tongue lizards repel garden snakes.
  • That a headless snake may live until dusk.
  • That a mother snake will eat her young if threatened.
  • Snakes always travel in pairs.
  • That a killed snake will follow its companion.
  • That snakes are deaf.

Snakes are not poisonous, nor are they cold or slimy. Although Australia has the highest proportion of dangerous native snakes worldwide, only a few are lethal when they bite a human. Snakes often target people since we are more extensive, stronger, and faster than them. When a snake disappears as you approach, they usually avoid confrontations, but because of their limited eyesight, snakes may choose the quickest route out.

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