Baby sea turtles use sounds to signal it's time to hatch

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Have you ever wondered how turtle hatchlings know when it is time to emerge from the nest and join their brothers and sisters in the quest for the open seas?

A new study published in Chelonian Conservation and Biology shows that hatchlings and embryos make multiple noises and sounds days before they hatch. The researchers placed microphones in the sand to record the sounds made by hatchling leather-back turtles.

“Leatherback sea turtles nest in South East Florida, but this study was conducted in Mexico," says Amanda Keledjian, a marine scientist with Oceana based in Washington DC. "These scientist were monitoring these beaches and inserting microphones into the sand were they new nest were.”

Keledijan tells ABC7 that it's exciting news to have proof hatchlings are communicating with each other.

“Often times the animal kingdom can never cease to surprise and amaze us so that is something exciting," she says. "It is also an inspiration to a lot of other sea turtle biologist to expect the unexpected.”

Most of the sea turtle nests that dot the beaches of the Suncoast are the nests of loggerhead turtles. But Keledjian says there are several reasons why all sea turtle hatchlings benefit by emerging together.

“Mainly because it is less work if they are all going out together or because it reduces the number of ones that might get picked off by predators as they emerge from the nest.”

She says now other researchers will be able to advance the sound study by answering other questions like:

“Does it help them find food? Does it help them know when to avoid a speeding boat for example, so there is a lot of interesting opportunities that this research will lead to.”

She says the sound research shows that human can sometimes have affect on turtles without even realizing it.