Turtles make a wide variety of sounds, a new study reveals.
Researcher Gabriel Jorgewich-Cohen has recorded startling vocalizations from 50 turtle species.
Hear 13 of these rarely heard turtle sounds, from croaking and screeching to cooing and purring.
Turtles have a reputation for being slow, still, and silent. If you listen closely, though, they’re surprisingly loud.
Gabriel Jorgewich-Cohen first became aware of this in the Brazilian Amazon, where he was conducting fieldwork, when he observed a group of baby turtles wriggling from their nests. They creaked.
“This reminded me of turtle sounds I heard while watching funny videos online and made me wonder how many species of turtles out there even make sounds,” Jorgewich-Cohen, a PhD student, told Insider via email. at the University of Zurich.
So he rushed home to his 10 pet turtles and set them up with logging equipment he’d borrowed from another researcher. They were also making sounds, like the crunching clicks in the clip below. Turn up the volume to hear it:
“My first reaction was to think it was a mistake, but the more I recorded the more I found. When I realized these were actually turtle sounds I couldn’t stop smiling,” said Jorgewich-Cohen.
Soon he was recording turtle squeaks, croaks, and snaps in the lab, and trying to figure out when reptiles deliberately chimed to communicate with each other.
There was a surprising variety of noises. This sounds like a record scratch:
Another turtle gave a deep hum:
Even within the same species, sounds varied. This clip of a snapping turtle sounds like a Darth Vader-style inhale:
While this snapping turtle sounds almost like the croaking of a frog:
The sounds of turtles have been documented in writing as early as the 1970s, but Jorgewich-Cohen wanted to capture the range of these reptiles’ vocalizations in audio recordings.
He also wanted to distinguish involuntary noises, such as burps, from sounds intended to communicate something to other turtles.
Jorgewich-Cohen has recorded 50 different species of turtles. To his surprise, each one made sounds. He thinks vocal communication is common among turtles.
These findings were published in the journal Nature Communications in October.
The sounds of not so silent creatures
Jorgewich-Cohen suspects that people don’t notice turtle sounds very often because it’s hard to hear them through water.
So he and his colleagues used underwater cameras to observe the turtles and see if their behaviors correlated with particular sounds.
‘We also recorded them in different groups whenever animals were available: female only, male only, juvenile only and then combinations of these groups. This allowed us to test whether there were sounds produced only in specific situations by different animals “, he said. .
In one example, a male mottled-footed wood turtle made the crunching sound underneath while displaying courtship behavior, Jorgewich-Cohen said.
Two of Jorgewich-Cohen’s red-footed tortoises, Arnaldo and Jojo, made this grunt when mating:
“Homer, Hulk, Carmelo and Clayton made a lot of different sounds,” he said, including the click below. “In some cases they were fighting,” she added.
For some turtle species, researchers have identified up to 30 distinct sounds.
This sounds a bit robotic:
This Malaysian softshell turtle sounds like it’s cooing:
While this sounds like a radar blip in a movie:
Researchers have even gone back to sea turtles and captured their cries:
So next time you see a turtle, listen closely. She may be trying to tell you something.
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