The Chatty Turtles

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Scientists studying giant South American river turtles found the animals have a remarkable ability to communicate even before hatching, the Washington Post reported.

Locally known as arrau, the freshwater turtles are found throughout the Amazon River and its tributaries. During dry seasons, thousands of females go to beaches along the river to lay their eggs.

But while other turtles usually leave their younglings to fend for themselves after hatching, arrau moms remain on the shore for two months until their little ones emerge.

Using microphones planted on nests, a research team noticed that turtle hatchlings emit soft, almost inaudible popping or chirping sounds within their eggs, enabling them to synchronize their emergence with other hatchlings. This synchronized hatching ensures they can make a coordinated dash to the safety of the river and evade potential predators, challenging the belief that turtles are solitary and non-communicative creatures.

Even the mothers appear to respond to these calls during their long stay nearby, a behavior akin to parental care, which was previously underestimated. Meanwhile, the young turtles migrate with the moms instead of finding their own way.

This newfound understanding of arrau turtles’ social dynamics and behaviors emphasizes the need for further research on turtles overall, including how noise pollution affects their communication.

Many turtle species, despite their ancient lineage, are at risk of extinction due to factors, such as climate change, habitat destruction and hunting. Today, illegal trade in turtle meat remains a significant threat.

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