Lizards and salamanders may use lungs to hear, study says

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Certain species of salamanders and lizards can actually hear through their lungs, according to a new study at Ohio State University.

The research extends previous studies showing that some types of earless frogs and toads use their lungs to pick up sound vibrations, said Thomas Hetherington, an associate professor of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology at Ohio State.

The results of the current study suggest lung-based hearing may exist in a variety of land-based animals.

"This primitive system of hearing may have been the auditory system for the first animals that lived on land," Hetherington said. "And it appears that it may still be important for some species today, particularly ones that lack middle ears."

Hetherington examined four species of salamanders and three species of lizards to determine if the lungs might play a role in their hearing. Although salamanders lack middle and external ears, both groups of animals have inner ears that can process sound.

In his studies, Hetherington found that sound causes the animal's chest to vibrate, and the vibrations are carried by air from the lungs to the animal's inner ear where it is processed as sound.

The experiments make clear the importance of the lungs for

Contact: Tom Hetherington
Ohio State University

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