‘Chatty Turtles’ Flip the Script on the Evolutionary Origins of Vocalization in Animals
Pakinam Amer: This is Scientific American’s 60-Second Science. I’m Pakinam Amer.
Clicks, clucks, grunts, and snorts—these are not sounds that we typically associate with turtles.
Amer: They’re actually thought to be very quiet or even silent. But it looks like we may have grossly underestimated how much sound they can make. Now a new study in Nature Communications has collected vocal recordings from 53 species of turtles and other animals that were otherwise considered to be mute.
Amer: Those clicks you’ve just heard were calls made by baby giant Amazon River turtles swimming together. A group of evolutionary biologists and other scientists in five different countries pored over these recordings and combined them with vocal repertoires of about 1,800 animal species from other studies.
Amer: They were able to piece together evidence that the last common ancestor of all lungfish and tetrapods started vocalizing more than 400 million years ago. (And just in case you…