Comparative Hearing: Birds and Reptiles

Volume 13 of the series Springer Handbook of Auditory Research pp 308-359

Hearing in Birds and Reptiles

  • Robert J. Dooling
  • , Bernard Lohr
  • , Micheal L. Dent

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The comparative hearing of birds and reptiles should always be considered together. It is clear from the vertebrate fossil record that birds and reptiles split over 200 million years ago from the diapsid reptiles of the early Triassic period (Fedducia 1980; Carroll 1987). Because of this common ancestry, there is considerable similarity between the hearing organs of modern day birds and reptiles, especially the Crocodilia (Manley and Gleich 1991; Manley, Chapter 4). However, comparisons between reptiles and birds are difficult for a number of reasons. In reptiles, the auditory anatomy is extraordinarily diverse. While this presents investigators with excellent opportunities to understand the relation between form and function, direct data on the behavior of hearing in reptiles are almost nonexistent. This leaves our understanding of hearing in this group of vertebrates entirely based on indirect measures from anatomy and physiology. Thus, any comparison of hearing between reptiles and birds is somewhat unbalanced because it also involves a comparison across methodologies: hearing estimates from anatomical and physiological data in the case of reptiles along with behavioral estimates of hearing capabilities in birds.