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Can Chameleons Hear?

by Lucy

Chameleons really are gorgeous pets, being able to change almost any color in less than 20 seconds! These fascinating reptiles are the physical echoes of dinosaurs and are great fun to watch in your own personal mini Jurassic Park.

But these reptiles are so wonderfully alien looking that it can be hard to understand them sometimes. So if you’ve tried talking to your chameleon never seen a reaction or have examined their anatomy for ears you never found, you may be wondering:

Can chameleons hear? Your chameleon can hear you. But, being a reptile and an animal with no visible outer ear, your chameleon hears sounds differently than you and your other mammalian housemates.

Let’s take a deeper look into the topic of whether or not chameleons have ears, whether they hear or not, and morw.

How Is The Chameleon Different From Other Lizard Species?

Chameleons belong to the family of Chamaeleonidae, a group of tree-dwelling Old World Lizards, best known for their ability to change color. These creatures are also different from other lizards due to their zygodactylous feet, where the toes are fused into bundles of twos or threes. 

Another unique feature is the acrodont dentition, where the teeth are attached to the edge of the jaw. The chameleon has eyes that move independently and atrophied venom glands that produce harmless traces of venom. 

Only two known species belong to Asia, in Sri Lanka and India. And one common species is found in the Middleeast to Southern Spain. And more than half of the species of chameleon belong to Madagascar. 

Oh, and the one most outstanding feature of the chameleon is the visible lack of ears. So, many chameleon owners wonder if their reptilian pets can hear them at all.

Do Chameleons Have Ears?

One thing that is noticeable to chameleon owners is their lack of responsiveness to most kinds of chatter or talking. Therefore, many animal lovers question whether chameleons don’t respond to sounds because they don’t have ears.

Chameleons don’t have regular ears, per se, as they lack the outer ear, the lobe, and the flap on the side of the head.

There is even research that suggests that the chameleon doesn’t have a normal middle ear that carries or captures the sound. But, if you think that the lack of these physical attributes deters the awe-inspiring chameleon from distinguishing different sounds and vibrations, you’d be wrong.

Chameleons may not have a traditional outer ear or middle ear to capture sounds. But, chameleons have an inner ear that is pretty developed as they have a quadrate bone.

So, if you look at a chameleon closely, you will find two microscopic slits on the sides of their head, close to their eyes. They can pick up frequencies that can transmit into the inner ear through skin and tissue. 

According to Softschool.com reports, the chameleon can pick up sounds that fall in the frequency range of 200 and 600 Hz. The frequencies are low-pitched and have longer wavelengths. But, more than hearing, which is a bit dull, chameleons are better at picking up vibrations.

According to Peggy S. M. Hills in her study, ‘Vibration And Animal Communication: A Review,’ in Oxford Journals, chameleons create and detect plant-born vibrations that are believed to play a part in communication since they cannot hear well. 

How Do Chameleons Hear?

As mentioned earlier, chameleons do not have an outer ear – no external ear opening, no visible tympanic membrane, and a lack of the round window of the cochlea. The slits at the sides of the head, close to their eyes, contain a membrane that picks up vibrations from low tones. 

The vibrations that permeate through skin and bone are carried to the auditory organ with the help of the bone in their head called the quadrate bone that most tetrapods have. Studies show that chameleons have the poorest hearing of all lizards. They have an average of 40-50 hair cells in their auditory papilla.

But, you can say that the chameleon has other more profound mechanisms for capturing prey than hearing. Hearing is something that they use mostly to communicate with other chameleons. 

Chameleons produce a low-sounding growl that other chameleons can easily hear and interpret. Large-sized chameleons use this form of communication to establish dominance over smaller-sized chameleons to scare away competition, particularly during the mating season.

It isn’t a sound that most chameleon owners can hear, but if you place your hand on your chameleon while it is growling, you will be able to tell through the vibrations it is trying to communicate.

Are Chameleons Afraid Of Noises?

It is common to find chameleon owners trying to find out if their pets can hear them at all. The apparent lack of an outer ear makes people believe that their reptilian pets can’t hear them at all. But, the truth of the matter is that chameleons hear very poorly. These creatures, nonetheless, are good at sensing vibrations. 

Yes, if the sounds around your pet’s tank are vibrations that your chameleon can detect and interpret, and these sounds are frequently surrounding your pet, your chameleon might develop a fright for them.

You might believe that your chameleon cannot hear what is happening around it at all. But, that is far from true. Chameleons can listen to and detect sounds at low frequencies quite well. Low-frequency sounds can come from any number of household items such as vacuum cleaners, phones, or even the television. 

If you have these low-frequency noises constantly surrounding your reptilian pet, you will find that your pet is stressed after a period of time. Stress is a killer not just for humans but animals as well. While certain noises are unavoidable, you should work towards creating a peaceful environment for your pet to minimize the level of stress. 

Chameleons respond differently to stress than other animals. These reptiles aren’t reputed for confrontations. A stressed chameleon will try to escape the stressful setting by trying to make a run for it or hiding away for long hours in the nooks and crannies of its tank. If your pet is under too much stress, it might lose its appetite or even its tail.

How Can You Communicate With Your Chameleon?

Chameleons have a frequency range of 200-600 Hz. The average human voice has a standard frequency range of 500 Hz. You need to understand that your chameleon might not hear everything you say. Your chameleon will undoubtedly pick up on the vibrations of the low-tone frequency of a gentle and calm voice.

However, when it comes to creating a bond with your chameleon, the more time you spend with your pet, talking to it, and being in physical contact, the more your pet will respond to your presence.

Chameleons make fantastic pets, and the most evident sign of your pet bonding and communicating with you is when your pet actively wants to be physically close to you, either walking up and down your shoulder and arms or sitting on your shoulders. 

Final Thoughts

Reptiles are very popular pets, chameleons happen to be one of the most sought-after reptilian domestic pets. Chameleons are brilliant creatures, but you can’t say they’re for everyone, as these animals require far more care than your average reptile.

It would be wrong to say that chameleons don’t make good pets, but have to understand that these reptiles require a more hands-off approach. Chameleons take more time getting used to new environments and even the presence of a new individual.

Also, chameleons don’t appreciate being handled too frequently. So, if you want to keep a chameleon as a pet, you should be prepared to give your new pet plenty of space and time.

When talking to your chameleon, you should know that even though your pet may not hear everything you might say to it, they may pick up on some of the words you speak.

More than words, chameleons pick up on vibrations and the calming presence of an individual. The more your chameleon finds your presence non-threatening, and the more you spend time with your chameleon, the sooner it will bond with you. 

Up Next: Do Chameleons Have Teeth?

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