Did you ever try to get your chameleon’s attention with sounds? Can chameleons hear you?
What is going on inside a chameleon’s head to make sense of the world around them? Are you here to find out how chameleons hear?
In this article, we go through chameleon senses and focus on their ability to pick up sounds or vibrations to find out if or can a chameleon hear you.
Can Chameleons Hear You?
A chameleon is not hearing you in the same way we hear the world. Hearing is not the same as picking up noises, vibrations, sounds and frequencies in the reptile world for chameleons.
They operate and navigate through their habitat using multi-faceted senses. Frequency ranges from 200-600 Hz can be picked up by chameleons who do not even have ears.
How they do this and terms like quadratic bone, auditory papilla along with tiny hair cells are going to shed light on this topic as we examine chameleon hearing senses much more deeply.
Do Chameleons Have Ears?
No. Tiny openings on the sides of their heads do not count as ears. These tiny holes include tiny hair cells and a membrane to pick up frequencies ranging from 200-0660 HZ.
Trying to find these holes is a tall task itself, because they are microscopic. Everything to do with chameleon hearing is masked, cloudy and hard to tell. This is why the topic surrounding chameleon ears and how they hear is so fascinating.
Without eardrums, you may think that it would be unlikely for a chameleon to hear, but they do have cochleas and other hearing methods that are not traditional or similar to humans and many other animals.
Do chameleons yawn to pop their ears to hear better? No. Chameleons actually have the poorest hearing capabilities in the lizard world, but they can still surprise you. Let’s dig deeper.
How Do Chameleons Hear?
If you wish to know how chameleons hear, it’s important to know what they physiologically posses in order to pick up sounds. Chameleons have:
- Microscopic holes next to the sides of their heads
- Quadratic bone
- Tiny hair cells
- Auditory papilla
- Frequency detection at 200 and 600 Hz
Chameleons may possess the ability to hear by knowing they are equipped with all of the above, but they can technically be considered deaf or mostly deaf. They will utilize other methods to pick up sounds.
Most notably, they are sensing vibrations they feel around them. Their auditory papilla, membranes, and quadratic bone sense these vibrations that reverberate throughout their bodies.
Low tones of 200 – 600 Hz are actually quite low and fit under the category of vibrating sound. If you wish to speak to your chameleon, try using a lower vocal tone.
Chameleon Quadratic Bone and Auditory Papilla
The quadrate or quadratic bone of a chameleon is dead center inside their head. Surrounded by membranes to pick up vibrations, the bone is efficient at keeping sounds level audible and detectable.
Signals pass through these membranes around the quadratic bone to the auditory papilla. The latter consists of tiny hair cells.
The problem for chameleons is that these hair hair cells are not as plentiful compared to other lizards. This gives them the worst hearing from reptiles.
The quadratic bone comes first. Then the membranes vibrates through signals received from the auditory papilla made up of tiny hair cells. This is how chameleons hear.
Chameleon Sound Sensitivity
Your chameleon is mostly deaf, but will pick up on sounds reverberating throughout the house and outside. Your chameleon is interpreting these sounds as familiar or unfamiliar, safe or possibly threatening.
While your footsteps back and forth become common, a weekly use of a vacuum cleaner can feel more alarming to a chameleon who is definitely hearing and feeling this machine.
Chameleons pick up sounds and vibrations from:
- Deep voice
- Humming appliances (fridge, washing machine, dishwasher)
- Running water (read more)
- Barking animals
- Traffic from outside the window
A chameleon is still hearing most of what you are hearing, but they are registering so low or barely audible for them to react. Unless the sound is coupled with motion or is heavy in bass, they may not be rattled by it.
Are Chameleons Deaf?
No. Chameleons are mostly deaf when you consider that the 40-50 hair cells in their auditory papilla are much lower compared to lizard counterparts. There is an opening, but it is microscopic and very hard to see.
They do not have a tympanic membrane or eardrums. They have a cochlea, but no round window around, hence they have no ears. Since chameleons can hear and feel low tones with a frequency of 200-600 Hertz, they are not deaf.
Chameleons use their tongues and color tones to communicate to others. They may hiss or growl, but these defense mechanisms are not strong enough to register as communicative devices that will alert other chameleons.
During mating season or bouts of aggression, the growl from a chameleon could be more pronounced and easier for them to hear. Otherwise, it’s too soft for their auditory papilla and hair cells within to pick it up.
Are Chameleons Scared Of Sound?
Chameleons are not scared of sound, but they are alert when the vibration of such sounds become more pronounced. When there is a loud bang or something crashing down in the home, they will be alarmed or perceive a threat.
A chameleon dislikes loud sounds from TVs or speakers because of the bass that pumps out and passes through their bodies. They do not like heavy sounds of footsteps around their enclosure if they are housed in a heavy traffic area.
Constant running from children and pets around them will stress a reptile who prefers hiding places, solitary living and a territory to call their own.
Sudden sounds and screams can alarm, alert or stress a chameleon and many other animals. I jump up sometimes when thunder and lighting cracks outside the window and my chameleon feels it too.
Chameleons Hearing Vs. Human Hearing
Humans hear sound typically from 20 Hz- 20 KHz. This huge range gives us the ability to hear light ruffling sounds, whispers or sounds occurring at great distances.
Chameleons only have limited range and frequency between 200-600 Hz. These sounds are deeper and somewhat muffled like a subwoofer. Around 200 Hz, it sounds like your ears and nose are stuffed up from a head cold.
Ultrasound frequencies go way over humans hearing at over 20 KHz. This is the territory where dogs or bats can pick up sound but humans or lizards cannot.
How Do I Talk to My Chameleon?
Your chameleon would appreciate getting to know you better, Your routines, actions and caregiving strategies are all being observed. Your motions must be smooth, fluid and gentle.
The more erratic or charged you are around a chameleon, the less they will trust you in most cases. You want to be slow and allow your chameleon to warm up to you, approach you and make contact with you as they can perch on your arm or shoulder.
When it comes to sound, they will pick up on your voice and learn it based on its frequency and pitch. I would recommend speaking to your chameleon with a deeper vocal tone, but nothing outrageous or comedic.
Speak slightly deeper, but not quieter, Too loud or too soft will not be picked up well. Some chameleons have been studied to react to high pitched songs by standing on their hind legs. Although I’ve never seen that, this is usually a defense mechanism and a stressful reaction to sound.
The vibrations occurring in nature around us are mostly ignored because we use our outer ear more than any other hearing sense.
A chameleon is detecting vibration like plants and leaf movement or even the fluttering of an insect’s wings.
They can feel vibration in the way the wind is flowing and sense when they should seek cover if it will rain soon. Chameleons use this sense of picking up vibrations to communicate with each other along with color tones.
Not being able to hear well is a disadvantage, but interacting with their world by picking up sensory cues through the surface and adapting or reflecting to it by changing color is an excellent trade-off in my opinion.
Best Chameleon Sense
The best sense a chameleon possesses could be their eyesight. They have a 360 degree view and field of vision that detects the smallest or largest movements. Their eyes can move independently from their heads or neck.
- One eye can move 180 degrees in the opposite direction from the other eye at the same time.
- Located on the sides of heads and bulging out, their view is uninterrupted and multifaceted.
- Insects at a range of 10 meters away can be seen fluttering, crawling or attempting to lay still.
- A chameleon can see this and prepare with camouflage or stealth-like movements that mimic the wonky, wobbly and shifty movements of leaves and branches.
Although the sense of seeing is their best when comparing the 5 major senses in a human way, the chameleon possesses an even stronger ability to use their skin.
When they change color, they do not only do this to protect themselves, catch prey or camouflage. They can communicate with brighter or darker colors with each other and we can pick on them too.
Dark colors warn us to leave them alone while intense reds, yellows or blues tell us that they’re ready for an encounter and will hold their ground if necessary. Softer colors or predominantly greens color indicate a more relaxed chameleon.
How Chameleons Adapt Without Ears
Chameleons fit into their part of the world by adapting and thriving with the senses that are more important to them. Camouflage, reflecting color and a 360 degree field of vision are more important to chameleons than being able to hear well.
Feeling the world around them through vibrations are still possessed by chameleons who have auditory papilla and a quadratic bone surrounding my membrane that reverberate sound at frequencies between 200-600 Hz.
If a chameleon cannot hear a predator, they can feel the vibration of their movement instead. On the other hand, the predator will have a hard time hearing a chameleon that mimics the movement of nearby leaves when in motion and cannot see a chameleon when they mimic the colors around them.
Can Chameleons Smell?
Chameleons do not depend on their sense of smell to protect themselves or search for prey, They can detect odors with their tongues if necessary.
Chameleons can smell, but their olfactory senses are extremely weak and not used as often as their ability to see well. They will detect motion around them through vibration and sight. They will respond with their tongues or skin tone to camouflage themselves.
Chameleons can smell bad however, if their enclosure are humid, food is rotting in their enclosure, poop is not picked up regularly, damp substrate or even parasitic infections.
The next time you feel bad for your chameleon who cannot hear well, remember how many advantages they have to survive for millions of years in the wild.
Try not to startle a chameleon with loud noises and treat them as if they can hear everything you say. A chameleon who trusts you and bonds with you, will know you from other people based on your movements, sight and vibrations.
We hope that knowing what you know now through the information presented in this article, you are better able to bond with your reptile companion who sees, feels and reacts to you with attention and hopefully in a comfortable situation and setting.
Thank you for visiting PocketPetCentral.com for the best information to help you enjoy the life of your pocket pet companion in a fun, safe & healthy way.