Reptile Vocalizations

Roaring crocodiles have long been known to mark their territory, fend off other males and warn potential prey. But that’s not all these fearsome reptiles can do.


Snakes do not have tympanum or eardrums, but they can hear vibrations in the ground through the quadrate bone on which their lower jaws rest. They adjust their calls according to ambient noise, just like birds and mammals do.


Chirps are soft, high-pitched sounds that a reptile makes. They can also make squeaks and clicks. They’re often used during mating and to indicate that they are alert. Reptiles can even hiss to signal danger. Usually, these sounds are made when they are in their hide box or are approaching something.

Some reptiles, such as geckos, vocalize to communicate with other members of their species. However, it’s difficult to determine whether they use these sounds in the wild, as they are likely to be on the menu for predators.

While it’s known that some reptiles can hear low-frequency sound, the ability to perceive higher frequencies hasn’t been investigated. However, a recent study showed that a reptile, the Tokay gecko, can change its call frequency to match the background noise.

The results of this study suggest that reptiles can adjust their vocal signals based on their environment and that this type of plasticity may have a wider evolutionary origin than previously thought. The findings also indicate that the internally coupled ear of reptiles can process ultrasonic calls.


While the roaring dinosaurs of the Jurassic Park movies might be a little far-fetched, many reptiles make sounds. Geckos can be chatty, using chirps and squeaks to define territory and communicate with females, and hissing is used to signal danger.

Most reptiles have a high hearing range, but their upper limit of sensitivity is lower than that of mammals or birds. This is likely due to the fact that they don’t have a diaphragm and air sacs to increase their volume.

Tokay geckos, a nocturnal species from Southeast Asia, are one of the few reptiles that produce vocalizations. Their loud advertisement calls are designed to attract females or repel rival males, and consist of a series of low-amplitude cackles followed by much louder GECK-O syllables.

Henrik Brumm and Sue Anne Zollinger studied how Tokay geckos modulated their calls in response to background noise. They found that geckos exhibited the Lombard effect, increasing the duration of their call types and frequency of their syllables in noisy conditions. This indicates that geckos can adjust their calls based on ambient noise levels, just like other vocally-communicating reptiles do.


Snorts are the sound of air being exhaled through the mouth. They can be made in response to a variety of stimuli and are often used as an expression of disapproval. For example, a child throwing a temper tantrum might respond with a snort. Snorts are also common in reptiles, such as a crocodile roaring to warn a predator.

A snort can be a sign that your pet snake is interested in you, but it may also be a warning that you are approaching too close. It is important to listen for body language from your reptiles, and if you aren’t sure what they mean, try playing some music at low volume. Most lizards like rock and metal, but you should always check with your pet to make sure it isn’t scared of loud noises.

While a snort can be an expression of distress, it is also commonly used by lizards in courtship and mating displays. It is also a way for males to communicate their status to females, or to mark territory in the wild.


Hissing is a sound produced by a snake when it feels threatened or during territorial disputes. It is similar to huffing, but with more force and a deeper sound. Hissing can be a very effective deterrent, especially when it is accompanied by other defensive behavior such as jaw snapping or aggressive charging.

Hisses are the closest thing a snake can come to speaking or singing. They are created by forcing air through the larynx while exhaling. It is believed that tegu lizards in the genus Tupinambis use hissing to communicate with other lizards in their environment.

Hissing is also a common sound made by the pituophis genus of snakes. These snakes are the only reptiles known to make this type of noise. They bellow in defense to scare off predators and to attract a mate. They produce this sound by pushing air through a single vocal cord positioned horizontally across the top portion of their larynx. This is in contrast to the paired vocal cords found in most other reptiles. The hissing sounds a lot like air escaping a tire.


A click is a sound produced by vibrating the folds of air in the larynx. It’s also the sound that many people think of when they think of a dinosaur roaring in one of those Jurassic Park movies, even though scientists believe that dinosaurs didn’t actually roar. Instead, they made clicking, cooing and hissing sounds.

Like other consonants, clicks can be described by four parameters: place of articulation, manner of articulation, phonation (including glottalisation) and airstream mechanism. The clicks have a front articulation traditionally represented by a special click symbol in IPA and a rear articulation that is either uvular or palatal.

They are found in all three Khoisan language families of southern Africa, and to a lesser extent in the neighbouring Bantu languages of Angola, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia. They are also present in creolised varieties of Afrikaans, particularly in the Yeyi and Gciriku languages. Some of the sounds are borrowed as regular speech sounds into native words, in part due to hlonipha word-taboo, and have spread to Nguni words in particular (such as the European loanword ‘tomato’ in Gciriku). They occur in seven or eight places of articulation: (bi)labial affricated @; laminal denti-alveolar affricated |; subapical postalveolar plosive ; alveolar plosive!; and lateral alveolar plosive |=.