How do turtles communicate?

How do turtles communicate?

Turtles belong to a group of easily distinguishable chordates within this phylum due to their particular carapace that covers the body, of which only the limbs and head can be seen if not hidden.


Turtles are found in many types of habitats, so they can be aquatic, semi-aquatic or terrestrial. Turtles are generally considered mute. However, this is not entirely true, since they are animals that emit certain types of sounds, which in many cases is to communicate. In this article, we want you to know how turtles communicate. Keep reading and discover this form of interaction between these animals!

Do turtles vocalize?

Turtles belong to the order Testudines, which is divided into two suborders that group together all current species, Pleurodira and Cryptodira. The difference between these two groups is in the way these animals are able to retract their heads. In the first case, the vertebrae are characterized by bending laterally, which allows them to move the head sideways. In the latter, the vertebrae, on the other hand, present vertical flexion, which allows the head to be retracted into the shell.

These animals can be aquatic or terrestrial, but in general, several species maintain intermediate habits. For example, sea turtle species spawn in the sand out of the water and freshwater turtles also go ashore. Also, they all need to breathe, so they need to surface to do that.

Turtles, especially aquatic ones, were considered silent reptiles for a long time. However, although studies on several taxa are lacking, some research [1] has confirmed that aquatic and terrestrial turtles communicate through various types of vocalizations. The communication system between turtles is complex and, in addition to using different types of sounds, even the hatchlings and their mothers start this process before the eggs hatch.

How do aquatic turtles communicate?

Aquatic turtles communicate by emitting various types of sounds, which have different frequencies. This communication process starts even before the egg hatches. Remember that turtles, even being aquatic, spawn on the surface of the earth and choose the place they consider most suitable for laying. Thus, although the mother is not in the place when the pups start to emerge, it was found that there are females that group in the water and communicate with their pups through vocalizations, to then guide them to find them in the water. • aquatic environment and start a journey together where newborns will learn to subsist with their parents.

But the communication of these animals goes much further, both the laying of eggs and the hatching of them en masse is not by chance. The females communicate to spawn in groups, later, the young also vocalize while still inside the egg and then synchronize and leave almost at the same time. As many newly hatched egg turtles are preyed upon, by doing so en masse, the number of deaths decreases, being, without a doubt, a biological strategy for the survival of the species.

Aquatic turtles kept in captivity do not vocalize, there are no records of these cases, which probably suggests that this did not occur in the order of Testudines.

How do turtles communicate?

In the case of turtles with terrestrial habits, they also emit various types of sounds or vocalizations to communicate. Although turtles do not have vocal cords, which made them consider mute animals, in the various terrestrial species it is common to hear this. they make sounds mainly during courtship and copulation.

These noises can be produced by the speed with which air passes through the oesophagus. In some cases, it is estimated that they do not represent real communication between the couple. But, for other researchers, there is a lack of studies to be able to define them conclusively.

What kind of sound do turtles make?

Turtles can make various types of sounds and at various frequencies, aspects that in many cases are linked to the species. For example, the leatherback turtle ( Dermochelys coriacea ), which is a marine species, when it reaches land it can produce three different types of sounds. In the case of terrestrials, it is known that it is a sound heard as a low or guttural whistle.

In turn, the loggerhead turtle ( Platysternon megacephaly ) produces sounds similar to screaming and in the case of adults of Quelodina oblonga , 17 types of sounds were identified, ranging from harmonic vocalizations to other types of frequencies.

Another example is in Podocnemis expansa , a species that has a complex communication system based on 11 different types of sounds, which occur from the egg stage to the final stage of adult life.

In addition, we can mention two other aspects identified. Younger turtles generally emit sounds at higher frequencies than adults. Furthermore, in riparian species, the same occurs as in marinas. When the hatchlings hatch, they look to their mothers for the sound they make.

Recent research on how turtles communicate has allowed us to identify that the noise caused by the various vessels that transit the seas undoubtedly affect the communication system of these species, which has serious consequences for them, such as, for example, interference between the sound contact that occurs between pups and mothers to locate themselves after birth.

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