CIE Seminar Series 2022: The realm of snakes – hearing & airborne sounds

SPEAKER: Dr. Christina Zdenek, Venom Evolution Lab, University of Queensland.

DATE & TIME: Friday 5th August 2022 @ 12pm.

LOCATION: Via Zoom. Click HERE to connect (Meeting ID: 836 1059 6997, Password: 06584066).

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Evidence suggests that snakes can hear, but how snakes naturally respond to airborne sound is still unclear. We conducted 304 trials on 19 snakes across five genera, observing the effects of airborne sounds on snake behaviour, compared to controls.

All snake responses were strongly genus dependent. Only one genus (Woma Pythons) significantly increased their probability of movement in response to sound, but three other genera (death adders, taipans, and brown snakes) were more likely to move away from sound, signaling potential avoidance behavior. Taipans significantly increased their likelihood of displaying defensive and cautious behaviors in response to sound, but three of the five genera exhibited significantly different types of behaviors in sound trials compared to the control.

Our results highlight potential heritable behavioral responses of snakes to airborne sound, clustered within genera. Our study illustrates the variability among different snake genera, and across sound frequencies, contributing to our limited understanding of snake behaviour.


Dr Christina Zdenek is a biologist, toxicologist, and a 2021 ABC Top 5 Scientist. She manages the Venom Evolution Lab at The University of Queensland.

Her passion for snakes began as a child, when her family pet was a 2.5-metre boa constrictor snake. Her research focuses on the systemic effects of animal venoms, as well as the ecology and behaviour of snakes.

Follow Christina on Twitter.

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Thanking you in advance!

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