Turtle Moms 'Talk' to Their Young

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Turtles might have far more complex social lives than it would seem. New recordings made of the animals "talking" via a series of specific vocalizations -- including moms possibly guiding newbies -- put weight behind that prospect.

A team of researchers spent 2009 through 2011 in Brazil on the Rio Trombetas, using microphones above and below the water to record more than 250 sounds made by river turtles.

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The team, from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the National Institute of Amazonian Research, then studied the recordings, ending up with at least six different types of sound made by the turtles during nesting season, depending on the situation in which they found themselves.

The turtles would make a particular type of sound when migrating in the water, for example, and another kind of chatter when tiny hatchlings were taking their first floppy steps on the beach. The latter chatter suggested to the researchers that they might be hearing what amounted to the first parental guidance for the newly hatched offspring.

Team member Dr. Camila Ferrara suggested that the females, waiting on the beach for their new charges, made the sounds in order to guide the hatchlings toward the open water. "Without these sounds, they might not know where to go," she told BBC News.

Although the scientists are uncertain what each sound specifically means, "we think sound helps the animals to synchronize their activities in the nesting season," Ferrara said.

The results of the team's work recently appeared in the journal Herpetologica.

via BBC News

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