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25 February 2019 Do Sea Turtles Vocalize to Synchronize Hatching or Nest Emergence?
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Abstract

Sea turtle hatchlings are known to vocalize; however, the purpose of these vocalizations is currently unknown. One hypothesis is that these vocalizations serve to synchronize hatching or starting the emergence from the nest. To test this hypothesis, we characterized and compared the frequency and duration of the sounds made by Olive Ridley Turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) during incubation, hatching, and emerging from the nest. We also determined whether hatchlings continue to vocalize after emerging from the nest. Lastly, we investigated species-specific variations in the vocalizations of Olive Ridley, Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and Green (Chelonia mydas) turtle hatchlings. Sound production was more frequent during incubation than during hatching or emerging from the nest, and in two of the three nests, a unique ‘pulse’ sound was heard during incubation. However, there were no significant differences in the frequency range or duration of the vocalizations between incubation, hatching, and emerging from the nest. Furthermore, hatchlings were recorded and continued to vocalize after emerging from the nest. From this we conclude it is unlikely that the sounds made by the hatchlings help to synchronize hatching or emergence behavior. Instead, they are likely by-products of other processes, such as embryo movement, serving little biological purpose. Nevertheless, we recommend further research to unequivocally confirm this is the case, and it remains highly interesting that sound production is a universal trait among cheloniid species.

© 2019 by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
Lindsay N. McKenna, Frank V. Paladino, Pilar Santidrián Tomillo, and Nathan J. Robinson "Do Sea Turtles Vocalize to Synchronize Hatching or Nest Emergence?," Copeia 107(1), 120-123, (25 February 2019). https://doi.org/10.1643/CE-18-069
Received: 1 June 2018; Accepted: 15 January 2019; Published: 25 February 2019
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