Thursday, 10 August 2017

Scientists Discover That Fly River Turtles Can Talk – via Herp Digest

Katherine Ripley, 7/12/17, AZULA.Com

What sound does a turtle make? At first, you might be stumped by that question. Do turtles make any sound at all? In fact, they do. And scientists recently discovered that a type of freshwater turtle, the pig-nosed turtle, not only vocalizes, but also engages in complex social interactions with other turtles.

Twenty years ago, it was widely believed that turtles were deaf and dumb. But thanks to the work of researchers like Richard Vogt, who spent most of his career studying giant South American river turtles, the prevailing scientific view changed. Scientists came to understand that all species of turtles could make noise and hear noises.

Vogt and his colleagues found that giant South American river turtles could “talk” to hatchlings, helping them migrate to the right place. This was the first evidence that any species of turtle provided any kind of post-hatchling care.

Amazingly, Vogt and his team found that baby leatherback sea turtles and olive ridley sea turtles can also communicate while they are still inside their eggs. This may be why all the baby turtles in a nest hatch at the same time.

The pig-nosed turtle, also known as the fly river turtle, is the latest species of turtle that scientists have observed communicating socially.

Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society recorded pig-nosed turtles both in the wild and in captivity exchanging calls while feeding, nesting and resting in the sun. They also recorded the turtles vocalizing underwater.

The pig-nosed turtle — which is native to Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea — is classified as vulnerable. Many species of turtles are endangered. Knowing that these animals vocalize and communicate with each other has a major impact on the way conservationists work to save the species.

For example, some conservation strategies involve keeping hatchlings in captivity for up to a month before releasing them into the wild. But this approach may deprive the hatchlings of the opportunity to communicate with their mother.

After Vogt published his research on communication between giant South American river turtle mothers and babies, the WCS changed its approach to turtle conservation. They now release hatchlings into the wild immediately.

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