American Oceans

How Do Green Sea Turtles Communicate?

When it comes to animals, each one has its own distinct way of communicating, and in some cases, having a dialogue with other species. 

underwater photo of two green sea turtles communicating

Green sea turtles aren’t exactly the most loquacious creatures in the world, however, making it interesting to study how these creatures interact verbally with each other.

Green Sea Turtle Communication

According to herpetologist Richard Vogt, the advent of verbal turtle communication is a recent development.

communication of sea turtles

Green sea turtles don’t possess vocal cords and have internal ears, both factors that are thought to make communication within the species quite difficult.

In fact, many scientists have presumed that sea turtles are just a deaf species.

However, herpetologists like Vogt have discovered in the last several years that green sea turtles actually make certain sounds that can be detected both in the water and on land.

green sea turtles facing and communicating each other

Those sounds can penetrate through eggs during mating season, which stimulate the hatching process, an incredible phenomenon. 

Why Haven’t These Green Sea Turtle Sounds Been Discovered Earlier?

Even if green sea turtles have internal ears, the sounds they emit are at a very low frequency, making them hard to detect even among species with better hearing.

green sea turtle discovered in shallow water

It has been hypothesized that green sea turtles use these sounds to communicate because they tend to travel long distances, which is especially important during migration season when the species tend to spread out.

The sounds are also on the lower end of the spectrum of which humans can hear sounds, making it a challenge to detect the sounds if you’re hard of hearing.

Additionally, the sounds are infrequent, as we can only expect to hear them 15 to 20 times over an eight-hour span.

how green sea turtles communicate

No wonder it’s been hard to discover green sea turtle sounds for all these years!

How Can Green Sea Turtles Hear Each Other?

The fact that green sea turtles can make audible sounds but lack adequate hearing abilities to communicate using those sounds seems ironic.

two green sea turtle hear and communicate

However, despite having internal ears, green sea turtles can sense sound vibrations, allowing them to detect certain communicative advances.

In addition, scientists now know that green sea turtles can actually hear low-frequency sounds like the ones they emit amongst one another (typically between 200 and 750 hz).

What Are Other Ways in Which Green Sea Turtles Communicate?

Green sea turtles have been proven to communicate with sounds, but what about other non-verbal methods?

green sea turtles communicate during mating

One primary communicative practice employed by green sea turtles is during mating season

Various visual and physical signals (like touching) allow female and male green sea turtles to understand each other during courtship.

Squirting water and blinking have also been used by turtles to communicate with each other, as well.

green sea turtles bite to be left alone

A unique communication method utilized by turtles is biting. Green sea turtles will bite each other if they’d prefer to be left alone. 

Another relatively unknown green sea turtle communication method is that they hiss, much like other animals do when they’re under duress.

Final Thoughts

Green sea turtles have a unique ability to communicate with each other despite hearing difficulties.

With the recent discovery of low-frequency sounds emitted by the species, we now know that green sea turtles have more ways of communicating than previously thought, in addition to many of the more unconventional methods listed above.

Ultimately, green sea turtles aren’t renowned for their communicative abilities, and this doesn’t help their chances for long-term survival, in particular when considering they’re currently endangered.

But perhaps they’re a little better at communicating than we originally thought.

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