Written by: Lisa Stelzner
Primary Source: Daily Dose of Science Blog
In the past, scientists did not think that turtles communicated with each other, seeing that they had internal ears and no vocal cords. However, giant South American River turtles were so organized in some of their behaviors that it seemed odd to scientists that they weren’t communicating somehow – such as when 16 turtles leave the river in a single-file line to dig nests and lay eggs on the shore. Herpetologists recently discovered that this species of turtle calls to each other in and out of the water. Baby turtles make noises while in their shells that may cause their siblings in the eggs around them to all hatch at the same time. After they hatch and enter the water, their mothers call for the babies and guide them to flooded forest areas. What’s amazing is the mothers stay near the beaches where they lay their eggs for two months while the eggs develop! Scientists plan on confirming if an individual mother actually finds her own offspring, or if it is some unrelated babies, since many mothers will lay eggs in the same area.
Turtles communicate at very low frequencies – so low that humans more than 50 years old often can’t detect it. This may help the sound travel underwater. They also really space out their calls, and sometimes only make noise a few times per hour. No wonder people didn’t think they communicated before!
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