Cows moo. Ducks quack. Dogs bark. Turtles? Well, most people would say turtles don’t make any noise, but that’s not true. Recent evidence suggests that at least 47 turtle species make some form of sound to communicate messages ranging from social standings to reproductive signals.
It’s also not just adults that make noise. Researchers recently discovered that baby sea turtles make sounds and communicate with each other from inside their eggs.
Researchers started monitoring leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) nests in Oaxaca, Mexico for sounds on day 51 — the point at which the turtles’ ears should be developed enough to hear sound. The researchers immediately began detecting sound, recording more than 300 different noises overall.
The researchers classified the sounds in four categories, including chirps, grunts, and “complex hybrid tones.” They found that the last sound, the most complex of them all, was only recorded in nests with just eggs, not eggs and hatchlings, suggesting that the noise is used to coordinate hatching times. Being able to coordinate hatching times is an important survival technique, because, for helpless little leatherbacks, there is strength in numbers. If they all hatch together, there is a much better chance that more of them will make it across the beach and into the water.
These findings also highlight another potential problem for nesting turtles. Researchers have long known that light pollution can confuse nesting turtles and hatchlings. Now, the researchers note that noise pollution could also threaten the survival of baby sea turtles.
To learn more:
- Read the full news release: Baby Turtles Speak to Coordinate Hatching.
- Check out this article from the Smithsonian: Baby Turtles Coordinate Hatching By Talking to One Another Through Their Egg Shells.
- Read the study: First Evidence of Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) Embryos and Hatchlings Emitting Sounds.
- Find out how sea turtles hear.
Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.