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A turtle drawing, with a simple question scrawled across the bottom, “Where are the turtle ears?” It came to my desk the other day. The drawing, sketched by a small child, showed the turtle without ears. The boy asked me “How do you hear?”

In fact, turtles have ears, which are actually small holes on the sides of their heads, which allow sound waves to enter.

In the past, people thought that turtles were dead. This presumption most likely arose from the fact that turtles do not have visible or physical ears sticking out of the sides of their heads, as is the case with most animals.

Although turtles do not have this pair of visible external ears, they can nevertheless discern sounds and “hear”. They do not hear as acutely as we humans, but they do have the necessary auditory nerve and corresponding brain center required to sense and decipher surrounding vibrations. Sound waves are collected through the small external openings on the side of the turtle’s head and transmitted through the middle ear, which is well designed to increase the volume of the sound waves. Therefore, although scientists believe that turtles rely more on their highly developed senses of sight and smell, they are definitely capable of hearing.

As each animal’s anatomical makeup has a corresponding physiological function, the reason turtles’ ears are located inside their heads is to make them more streamlined when in the water. This would allow them to detect sounds and vibrations in their environment.

Although turtles do not have an eardrum or eardrums that collect sound waves for more defined hearing, turtles are capable of detecting low-frequency sounds and feeling vibrations, whether they are in water or on land.

Because of this, they mainly rely on their vision and sense of smell to help them get around. There are even theories that suggest that turtles’ refined sense of smell allows them to return to the exact beach they originally hatched on to mate and lay their eggs.

Turtles have been known to find or identify food, mates, and territory by their sense of smell. The vision of the turtles is also excellent. They can differentiate between colors and shapes, things that are crucial for animals that live or spend time in water. What turtles lack in a refined sense of hearing, they make up for in their sense of smell and excellent vision.

Some people consider their pets as important as their children. Whether true or not, some turtle owners imagine that their beloved pets can recognize and respond to their voices!

We have no objective data to prove or disprove this theory. The way a turtle responds may, as some experts claim, stem from the way they perceive the vibrations around them. It’s probably not so much the sound or distinctive quality of the voice coming through the turtle’s ears, but the vibrations coming from closing doors and other vibration-inducing movements or stimuli around it. Let’s hope future research helps us determine the truth about turtle ears!

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