Turtle vocalizations as the first evidence of posthatching parental care in chelonians

  • Ferrara C
  • Vogt R
  • Sousa-Lima R
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Abstract

Until recently, freshwater turtles were thought to be silent reptiles, neither vocalizing nor hearing very well. We recorded individuals in nature, captivity, and during interactions between adults and hatchlings and show that hatchlings and adult turtles, Podocnemis expansa, produce sounds in and out of the water. Sounds were emitted by hatchlings inside the egg, in open nests, in the river, and in captive conditions. Adult females were recorded producing sounds in the river, while basking, while nesting, and in captivity. Females were recorded in the river approaching and responding to hatchling sounds. We detected 2,122 sounds, classified in 11 different types. These data suggest that there is sound communication between adults and hatchings and that these sounds may be used to congregate hatchlings with adults for mass migration. Hatchlings and females with transmitters were found migrating together. We consider these findings as the first evidence of acoustic communication mediating posthatching parental care in chelonians. We anticipate that our findings will influence the way turtle behavior is studied and interpreted, and add communication and sound pollution to turtle conservation concerns.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Giant South American river turtle
  • Parental care
  • Podocnemis expansa
  • Sound
  • Turtles

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