Out for a run (okay fine, really more of a confident walk peppered with moments of faster walking that I label as “running”) this morning through Prospect Park in Brooklyn I came upon Red-Eared Slider turtle strolling across the road. I stopped, concerned that the bicyclists that whiz through the park might not see it and run it over. We looked at each other for a moment before I asked it where it was headed. Turtle didn’t respond but did give me a sort of, “none of your business lady,” look. Or did it? I wasn’t sure, so I repeated the question and still there was no answer. Not one to bully, I picked Turtle up and put it in the leafy woods and without even so much as a thank you, it strolled off. I wasn’t offended, but it leave me wondering – While Turtle stopped to look at me, did it actually hear me approach? Raise A Paw wants to know if turtles have the ability to get an earful; Turtles, Can You Hear Me?
Well turtles aren’t deaf if that’s where you thought this was going. In fact, this could not be further from the truth! Turtles have an inner ear mechanism as well as the auditory nerve and brain center biologically required for hearing. But what makes them really special is that they in fact have an external eardrum known as a tympanum. This tympanum allows them to hear high frequency airborne sounds by sending very quick vibrations from the tympanum to the middle ear. The outer ear gathers sound vibrations in order to make them louder. Sound waves are gathered via these small external holes found on the sides of the turtle’s head and as a result, this allows them to detect sounds and vibrations in their surroundings. Once they reach the middle ear (as described above and mentioned earlier), these middle ears help them to increase the volume of the sound waves.
While a turtle cannot hear sounds as loudly as a person can they do have a sharp sense of interpreting the vibrations of the environment around them. Not to worry, because hearing isn’t their most adept sense, their vision and smell are heightened. Scientist convey that the reason that the reason a turtles ears are located inside of their heads is so that they are able to swim and maneuver more aer0-dynamically when they are in the water.
So, feel free to sing to your turtle and chat it up with them. While they may not be able to decode English (perhaps that’s a Raise A Paw for another time…) they know for sure that you talkin’ to them.