Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists study 'talking' turtles in Brazilian Amazon

Date:
August 14, 2014
Source:
Wildlife Conservation Society
Summary:
Turtles are well known for their longevity and protective shells, but it turns out these reptiles use sound to stick together and care for young. Scientists working in the Brazilian Amazon have found that Giant South American river turtles actually use several different kinds of vocal communication to coordinate their social behaviors, including one used by female turtles to call to their newly hatched offspring in what is the first instance of recorded parental care in turtles.

This is an adult Giant South American river turtle. The turtle is the largest member of the side-necked turtle family and grows up to nearly three feet in length.
Credit: C. Ferrara/Wildlife Conservation Society

Turtles are well known for their longevity and protective shells, but it turns out these reptiles use sound to stick together and care for young, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society and other organizations.

Related Articles


Scientists working in the Brazilian Amazon have found that Giant South American river turtles actually use several different kinds of vocal communication to coordinate their social behaviors, including one used by female turtles to call to their newly hatched offspring in what is the first instance of recorded parental care in turtles.

The study appears in a recent edition of the journal Herpetologica. The authors are: Camila Ferrara of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Richard C. Vogt of the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas de Amazônia, and the Associação de Ictiólogos e Herpetólogos da Amazônia; Renata S Sousa-Lima of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Bruno M.R. Tardio of the Instituto Chico Mendez; and Virginia Campos Diniz Bernardes of the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas de Amazônia, and the Associação de Ictiólogos e Herpetólogos da Amazônia.

"These distinctive sounds made by turtles give us unique insights into their behavior, although we don't know what the sounds mean," said Dr. Camila Ferrara, Aquatic Turtle Specialist for the WCS Brazil Program. "The social behaviors of these reptiles are much more complex than previously thought."

Some behaviors of the Giant South American river turtle have been well known for some time, including the tendency to aggregate in huge numbers during the nesting season. However, the mechanisms used by turtles to coordinate their activities have yet to be explained. This study focused on the sounds made by the turtles as a possible means of facilitating social behavior.

Working on the Rio Trombetas between 2009 and 2011, the research team captured 270 individual sounds made during 220 hours of recording made with both microphones and hydrophones when the turtles were swimming through the river. The scientists then conducted spectrographic analyses on the repertoire, which they subdivided into six different types of vocalization made by turtles during the nesting season, which begins as the reptiles leave the seasonally flooded forest for nesting beaches along river banks. The scientists also sought to correlate vocalizations with specific behaviors.

Sounds made by the turtles while migrating through the river or basking tended to be low frequency sounds, possibly to facilitate contact between turtles over longer distances. Vocalizations made during nesting tended to be higher frequency sounds, possibly because higher frequency sounds travel better in shallow water and in the air.

The highest diversity of sounds are used by females about to nest; the researchers theorize that the animals use these sounds to decide on a specific nesting site and to synchronize their movements (the turtles leave the water in a single-file procession).

The hatchling turtles themselves make sounds before they hatch and continue to do so as they clamber out of the nest chamber on the river beach. The sounds, the authors speculate, may stimulate group hatching. The females, in turn, vocalize in response to the nestling calls, perhaps guiding the nestlings into the water. These interactions -- the first recorded instance of parental care in turtles -- were featured in a 2012 study appearing in the Journal of Comparative Psychology.

Using sonic transmitters, the team also discovered that the hatchlings remain together and migrate with adult females for more than two months.

The Giant South American river turtle is the largest of the side-necked turtle family and grows up to 80 centimeters (nearly three feet) in length. The species is only found in the Amazon River basin and is now threatened by unregulated consumption of the turtles' meat and eggs.

"Groundbreaking studies such as this one can help us better understand the complex relationships between both individual animals and their environment," said Dr. Julie Kunen, Executive Director of WCS's Latin America and the Caribbean Program. "Protecting the still sizable populations of Giant South American river turtles will also enable us to conserve the behavioral richness of these reptiles for future study."

Research on the Giant South American river turtles is part of a new long-term WCS conservation program called Amazon Waters, an initiative focusing on the conservation of aquatic ecosystems and species.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wildlife Conservation Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Camila Rudge Ferrara, Richard C. Vogt, Renata S. Sousa-Lima, Bruno M.R. Tardio, Virginia Campos Diniz Bernardes. Sound Communication and Social Behavior in an Amazonian River Turtle (Podocnemis expansa). Herpetologica, 2014; 70 (2): 149 DOI: 10.1655/HERPETOLOGICA-D-13-00050R2

Cite This Page:

Wildlife Conservation Society. "Scientists study 'talking' turtles in Brazilian Amazon." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140814191526.htm>.
Wildlife Conservation Society. (2014, August 14). Scientists study 'talking' turtles in Brazilian Amazon. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140814191526.htm
Wildlife Conservation Society. "Scientists study 'talking' turtles in Brazilian Amazon." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140814191526.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) — Scientists in Amsterdam say couples transfer tens of millions of microbes when they kiss, encouraging healthy exposure to bacteria. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) — Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

Buzz60 (Dec. 22, 2014) — A new species of fish is discovered living five miles beneath the ocean surface, making it the deepest living fish on earth. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) — Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins