Last updated at 14:30 BST, Monday, 18 August 2014

Talking turtles

Summary

18 August 2014

Scientists in Brazil have recorded river turtles apparently talking to each other underwater. They make different noises depending on what they're doing and whether they're with adults or young turtles. Researchers from The Wildlife Conservation Society believe that the turtles might use sound to exchange information.

Reporter:

Victoria Gill

A baby turtle

Researchers recorded a specific sound when adults and babies were together

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Report

(Turtle sounds)

This muffled creak is what researchers heard repeatedly when they listened to giant South American river turtles swimming together. It could help explain how the animals coordinate their behaviour so well in the nesting season, when females gather in large groups at beaches before laying their eggs.

The researchers used microphones above and below the water to record the turtles at different stages in the season. And when the newly hatched turtles and adults were together in the river, scientists heard a different sound.

(Turtle sounds)

This, they think, is parents guiding newly hatched babies on their first migration. The researchers also say that their study shows how vulnerable turtles could be to man-made noise disturbing this quiet but seemingly vital chatter.

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Vocabulary

muffled

(of a sound) not very loud or clear

creak

sound like a wooden door being opened

nesting season

period in which birds or animals make their homes (nests), lay eggs and care for babies

gather

come together

hatched

when a baby animal or bird comes out of its shell

migration (of animals or birds)

movement from one area to another, usually when the season changes

chatter

(of animals or birds) short, repeated noises