Do Tortoise Have Ears? Can They Hear You?

  • By: Kavi Ranjan
  • Date: November 8, 2022
  • Time to read: 2 min.
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Tortoises do not have external ears. But they do have an eardrum hidden under the scales on the side of the head or neck and behind the eyes. The area can be spotted and identified as a dark spot.

The scales or membrane covering their auditory canal is called the tympanic membrane.  

Can tortoises hear you? 

Tortoises are not completely deaf but they do not have a full-fledged hearing. With poor auditory skills, they can hear only certain types of sounds. Rather, they are selective in hearing only certain types of sounds.

They respond to certain types of high and low sounds, most of which are accompanied by a visual cue or vibrations. The vibrations travel up their legs and then shell to reach the eardrums finally.  They listen to low sounds better than high sounds.  

Are tortoises deaf? 

Tortoises are not deaf. However, their hearing is more about responding to frequencies. The most common sound frequencies they respond to are hatching eggs, courting sounds of mates, and dueling adults.

Because they respond to frequencies and not actual sounds, many believe that tortoises are deaf.  

How do tortoises recognize their owners? 

While tortoises do not have an excellent auditory sense, they have a terrific sense of smell and sight. It is their sight that helps them to recognize their owners over time. They also take help from other cues like recognizing the vibration pattern of their footsteps.

If the owners speak to them in low tone voices, it helps the tortoise recognize them better as tortoises respond to low sound frequencies more efficiently than the high sound frequencies.  

Tortoises also have an excellent sense of time and understand their feeding time very well. As intelligent animals, they combine their sense of smell, sight, vibration sense, and sense of time to recognize and respond to their owners over time.  

Do tortoises respond to their names? 

Because tortoises respond more to the sound frequencies than actual words, tortoises would not respond to their names. However, they have an excellent sense of smell, sight, and time.

They often recognize it is their food time and respond to the footsteps and smell of food which is sometimes misinterpreted as responding to their names.  

Does the sulcata tortoise have ears? 

Sulcata tortoise does not have any external ears. But they are extremely sensitive to vibrations and respond swiftly to them. It creates the illusion that they are hearing sounds and responding to them.  

The same goes for the Indian star tortoise.  

Wrapping up  

We hoped you enjoyed learning about the auditory sense of the fascinating tortoises and would handle them much better as pets.