MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: Do reptiles have ears.

Date: Wed Dec 8 17:00:26 1999
Posted By: Kurt Wollenberg, Post Doc Genetics, North Carolina State University
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 944145773.Zo

Yes, they do. However, reptilian ears are unlike ours in that they don't 
have any external structures to help in the collection of sound. For most 
reptiles having external ears like ours would actually reduce their ability 
to hear what's going on around them, in much the same way that it's harder 
for you or me to hear someone talking behind us. Most reptiles have other 
sensory organs, especially the eyes, on the sides of their head. This 
enhances the animal's ability to sense the environment on all sides, rather 
than emphasizing what's in front, like our eyes and ears do.

Reptilian ears appear as holes in the side of the animal's head, behind the 
eye and about midway down between the eye and the corner of the mouth. In 
some reptiles the ear holes are covered by a scale so they are not easy to 
see. Internally, reptilian ears are very similar to mammalian ears. They 
both use a series of bones and membranes to transmit changes in air 
pressure (This is what sound really is) to a liquid-filled cavity. The 
vibrations in this liquid stimulate "hairs" attached to specialized nerve 
cells. These cells change the movement of the "hairs" into electrical 
impulses that are transmitted to the brain. 

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