First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with what a roar is: according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to roar is to “emit a full loud prolonged sound.”
We know many animals that roar like bears, lions, and tigers! Roaring is a pretty exciting noise to witness, but it’s not always a good thing to see in person. We know that many mammals roar, but what about reptiles?
Do any reptiles roar?
The only reptiles that can truly roar are crocodiles and alligators. These two reptiles use specialized tissues in their throats to produce loud intimidating noises that are used to be territorial and aggressive toward threats. Besides crocodiles and alligators, there are no other reptiles that can roar!
That’s the quick answer, but let’s take a closer look!
What Makes A Roar?
To figure out why most reptiles can’t roar, we’ll take a look at what makes a roar.
As we mentioned above a roar is a full, deep, loud sound. It’s different from a yell because it’s usually characterized by a low rumbling pitch. To roar, an animal needs to have a specialized larynx and hyoid bone. Enlarged vocal cords and folds in the throat contribute to a roar. And the more space the sound has to echo, the better! So, you’ll usually notice the roaring animals stretch out their heads and necks for a louder sound.
How Do Crocodiles And Alligators Roar?
So, what’s up with crocodiles and alligators? They’re not large mammals, but they’re still able to roar!
Interestingly enough, crocodiles and alligators actually lack vocal cords. Instead, these reptiles roar through vibrations of the folds of their larynx. You’ll notice in the video below that when these gators roar, they don’t even need to open their mouth They just move air through their throats and cause a huge rumbling roar!
Why Do Crocodiles And Alligators Roar?
It seems like there are three main reasons that crocodiles and alligator roar.
The first reason that these giant animals roar is to claim their territory. Male alligators and crocodiles can be very territorial and one way to establish a territory is to roar loudly. It’s a clear signal to other males nearby that they shouldn’t approach.
Another reason that crocodiles and alligators roar is as a basic form of communication. A roar is just one of the sounds you’ll hear these reptiles make. You can also hear them hiss, trust, and growl. They’re surprisingly vocal animals and have complex social systems that require communication.
The last reason that crocs and gators roar is to find a mate. Yep, you hear right! A loud roar is one of the ways that males attract females. Instead of a courtship dance, these animals roar as loud as they can to prove that they’ll make a worthy mate.
These reptiles roar often and with intent!
Did Dinosaurs Actually Roar?
One commonly asked question about roaring reptiles is whether or not dinosaurs actually roared.
The Jurassic Park movies are some of the most iconic dinosaurs films ever. They present dinosaurs in a specific light that might not always be scientifically accurate. The roaring tyrannosaurus rex could actually be a mistake on the director’s part. Scientists believe that dinosaurs probably did not actually roar.
Instead, it’s believed that dinosaurs were more likely to have made cooing, hissing, and clicking sounds, sort of like a large bird! While there’s no guarantee of that, it’s not likely that these large animals roared at all.
What Sounds Do Other Reptiles Make?
So if the only reptiles that roar are crocodiles and alligators, do the other reptiles make sounds?
Other reptiles do make sounds! You might notice that your pet hisses, clicks, or croaks depending on what kind of reptile you have. We’ll briefly go over how other reptiles communicate now.
Not all species of lizards can make sounds and are considered to be mute.
But, many lizards make a variety of sounds. Lizards will make clicking noises and chirping sounds. Some of these sounds might not even be audible to the human ear. Geckos are pretty notorious for making noises. You can often hear wild geckos make chirping sounds at night in tropical locations.
Lizards cannot roar and usually don’t hiss. Lizards like leopard geckos also can’t hiccup!
Snakes are very well known for their hissing sound.
All snakes are able to hiss, and it’s the only noise they’ll make with their mouths. Though all snakes have the ability to hiss, small snakes rarely do. Many pets snakes will hiss in captivity. A ball python, for example, might hiss when they feel threatened, when they see a reflection, or around handling time. Although a hiss can be an intimidating sound, it’s not always a bad thing to hear!
Turtles and Tortoises
If you’ve never heard a turtle or a tortoise talk, you’re missing out!
Turtles and tortoises make the funniest noises. The largest tortoises make the smallest little squeaks and chirps. They also click and hiss. Turtles and tortoises are surprisingly vocal and even make very high-pitched sounds when they mate. You’ll notice that tortoises often hiss when something approaches them too quickly.
This video shows a compilation of different tortoise sounds.
Although frogs aren’t reptiles, we’d like to mention them hear.
Even though frogs are small, they have an amazing ability to make noises. The most well-known frog noise is obviously the “ribbit” sound. Frogs can make such a wide variety of noises because of how malleable their throats are. They can inflate their throats and fill them up with air to make incredible sounds. Frogs also have very large mouths which they use not only to bite and chew food but also to vocalize!
Crocodiles and alligators are the only reptiles that truly roar. They roar by using a specialized larynx and fold in the throat. Most reptiles don’t roar. Even dinosaurs probably didn’t roar. Even though your pet reptile might not be able to roar, they still have tons of other ways to communicate with you.
Your pet reptile can probably make some hissing or chirping noises. And, with animals, one of the most important languages to “listen” to is body language. If your pet is trying to tell you something, it might do it with a subtle repositioning of its tail or head. Even though they can’t roar, they can still communicate. Pay attention and in no time you’ll be a world-class reptile interpreter!