Wednesday, August 20, 2014

20/08/2014: Female turtles “talk” to their hatchlings

Posted by Jason Bittel in Weird & Wild

The first time Richard Vogt tried to catch a giant South American river turtle (Podocnemis expansa), the hundred-pound (45-kilogram) reptile dragged him 30 feet (9.1 meters) down to the bottom of a river. It would have kept going, too, if he hadn’t decided to give up and let go of the shell.

Vogt is a herpetologist with Brazil’s National Institute for Amazonian Research who recently received the ninth annual Behler Turtle Conservation Award for lifetime achievement. Twenty-five years after that giant first pulled him under, he’s still studying these fascinating creatures. 

In fact, in the most recent issue of Herpetologica, the first known evidence that turtles provide parental care for their hatchlings was reported by Vogt and Camila Ferrara of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“The giant South American river turtle is one of the most social species of turtle in the world,” Vogt said. 

“They migrate together, they nest communally, and they hatch out in huge numbers together.”

And now, thanks to 220 hours’ worth of underwater recordings, Vogt and his team have shown that female giant South American river turtles in Brazil call to their hatchlings once they reach the water for the first time.

The very idea that turtles can communicate with each other using sound is rather new. Turtles lack vocal cords and their ears are internal, so for many years scientists simply assumed turtles were, as Vogt called it, “deaf as a post.”

Over the past 50 years of working with these animals, it always seemed strange to him that some species could seem so downright organized without some form of communication.

Read more HERE.

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