Insights from Comparative Hearing Research

Volume 49 of the series Springer Handbook of Auditory Research pp 323-346


Reptile Auditory Neuroethology: What Do Reptiles Do with Their Hearing?

  • Bruce A. YoungAffiliated withDepartment of Anatomy, A.T. Still University Email author 
  • , Nicolas MathevonAffiliated withEquipe de Neuro-Ethologie Sensorielle, ENES/CNPS, CNRS UMR8195, University of Lyon/Saint-Etienne, Cedex 07
  • , Yezhong TangAffiliated withChengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences

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Reptiles from all major phylogenetic radiations—turtles, lizards, snakes, and crocodilians—respond, both physiologically and behaviorally, to auditory stimuli. There is considerable variation in the auditory frequency response range among different reptilian groups, though the underlying biophysical and neurological bases for these differences are poorly known. In some reptiles the auditory neural processing appears to have reasonably discrete low- and high-frequency components. In these reptiles, which include some lizards and crocodilians, vocal communication has evolved multiple times; associated with this vocal communication is a diversity of intraspecific behaviors including territoriality, parental care, and courtship. In other reptiles, most notably, but not exclusively, the snakes, the response to high-frequency stimuli has been lost. Vocal communication is rare in these taxa and plays little to no part in intraspecific behaviors. The commonality of low-frequency auditory responses across reptiles is associated with a common, and very generalized, avoidance response.


Defensive behavior Hearing Intraspecific communication Parental care Territoriality