Sea Turtles Communicate With Each Other Before Hatching

Written by on July 30, 2014 in Marine Life, Sea Turtles

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.

Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). Photo credit: Scott R. Benson, NMFS.

Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). Photo credit: Scott R. Benson, NMFS.

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.

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Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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