In my world, creatures evolved in the twilight zone of a tidally locked planet. Naturally, because there is little light, creatures either increased their light sensitivity or turned to other senses, the most common being their auditory sense.

I have originally thought of just larger ears but thought they didn't quite fit with some of my reptile-looking creatures. So I thought of another method, but am not sure if this would work.

Basically, the creatures would have large "plates" on the top of their heads, like that of triceratops.

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These "plates" will be structured so that they would be sensitive to vibrations, and there would be many nerves that would pass on these vibrations to the brain.

There are some animals that sense the vibrations of the ground, but I don't know if this would work out for vibrations in the air...

So, in biological terms, is this method of "hearing" possible? If not, could there be any modifications to make this possible?


I think it's possible but would be inferior by far to how animals handle it today. The best hearing in low light animals isn't achieved by having larger ears.

Owls and the record holder which is a moth don't have large ears. Owls have no real external ears yet they can hear the heartbeat of a mouse 25 feet away. This is largely done internally by ear drums and other mechanisms.

Lizards have sub par hearing but taste the air with their tongues to get very precise information.

The closest parallel would be fish with their lateral lines, but those are in a water medium where it's much better suited. Air is a whole other story, it just doesn't have the density and other properties of water.

  • $\begingroup$ Technically, the entirety of an owl's face functions as an external ear. That's why they've got that distinct facial shape with the feathers forming bowls around their eyes. $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Oct 24 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ @nick012000 sure, but useless without the actual ear apparatus. I can make a hole in bucket and put it over my head, theoretically it will reflect sound from a direction better, but I won't be counting any mice heartbeats from 25 feet away. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Oct 24 at 7:26
  • $\begingroup$ If the bucket is shaped right, you will notice your sense of hearing being notably improved. $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Oct 24 at 7:39
  • $\begingroup$ @nick012000 enough to hear a mouses heartbeat? ... feel free to downvote, not really interested in continuing this convo. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Oct 24 at 8:25
  • $\begingroup$ Quite possibly, yes. youtube.com/watch?v=f_l9L9AnWU0 $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Oct 24 at 8:52

The lateral line in the fishes has a similar purpose

The lateral line, also called lateral line system (LLS) or lateral line organ (LLO), is a system of sensory organs found in aquatic jawed vertebrates, used to detect movement, vibration, and pressure gradients in the surrounding water.

The main difference is that, due to the higher mismatch in acoustic impedance between the air and the body, it might be less effective in catching the sound. But that can be mitigated with an appropriate design.

Considering that the side of the body has also a larger surface than plates around the head, it looks also like a better location.

  • $\begingroup$ If there are composite eyes, why not composite ears too? $\endgroup$ Oct 23 at 13:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AdrianColomitchi - for the same reason a wall of tweeters has an inferior bass response to a single loudspeaker of the same overall surface area. $\endgroup$
    – TLW
    Oct 23 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ @TLW What does that mean? $\endgroup$ Oct 23 at 20:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @TWL 1. producing sound and sensing sound are two different things 2. a large "eardrum", as proposed by the Q, is next to useless for sensing high frequencies to begin with. $\endgroup$ Oct 23 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ @AdrianColomitchi I think you are looking for the word "compound". $\endgroup$ Oct 24 at 10:25

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