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How Do Turtles Communicate? Explained

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Turtles are known for their ability to live for over 100 years. They also have a unique way of communicating with each other. How do they do it? What does it look like?

Turtles are reptiles belonging to the order Chelonia. There are two main types of turtles: sea turtles and land turtles.

Sea turtles spend most of their lives at sea, whereas land turtles spend most of their time on land.

Two turtles facing each other

Sea turtles use a system called echolocation to navigate through water. When they swim, they emit sound waves from their mouth.

The sound waves bounce off objects in front of them, allowing them to detect obstacles and determine where they are in relation to those objects.

Land turtles communicate using visual cues. They use their eyes to see things around them and then send signals back to their partners via touch

Verbal Sea Turtle Sounds

Sea turtles’ sounds when swimming can be described as “whistles” or “squeaks.” These sounds help sea turtles find food and avoid predators.

Non-verbal Land Turtle Communication

When turtles are on land, they use body language to communicate. For example, they may stretch out their necks, put their heads down, or extend their claws.

They also use facial expressions such as looking up, looking sideways and moving their mouths.

Do Turtles Communicate Like Humans?

Humans and turtles share many similarities. Both species use communication to survive. They both need to eat, breathe, and sleep.

Both species must learn how to adapt to new environments. And both species face challenges related to reproduction and raising offspring.

Like humans, turtles are social animals. They form groups called “tribes” that consist of several individuals. Each turtle is assigned to one tribe.

A tribe consists of members who are genetically similar. Members of different tribes don’t usually interact with each other.

Like humans, turtles have distinct personalities. Some turtles are more aggressive than others. Some prefer to stay alone, while others enjoy being part of a group.

Turtle Tribes

A tribe is made up of a few dozen to a few hundred individual turtles. Each member has its own personality. However, all members of a tribe act similarly because they are genetically similar.

Members of a tribe are typically born into the same family. They remain together until they reach sexual maturity. Then they leave the family and start their own families.

Tribe Size

Each tribe contains about 50 to 200 individuals. This number varies depending on the species.

Tribe Composition

Most tribes contain only adult males. Adult females are rarely seen. Young turtles are often found outside their parents’ care.

Other Ways That Turtles Communicate

A turtle hiding in his shell

Some turtles use vocalizations to communicate. Others use scent markings. Still, others use chemical signals.


Turtles produce sounds by vibrating air inside their throats. Most of these sounds are used to communicate with other turtles.

Squeaks – These sounds are produced when a turtle moves forward through the water.

Whistles – These sounds are produced by a male during mating season. He uses his whistle to attract a female.

Scent Markings

Turtles use scent markings to mark territory. Scent marks include droppings, urine, and secretions.

Chemical Signals

Turtles use chemicals to communicate. One type of chemical signal is pheromones. Pheromones are molecules that influence behavior in other organisms.

Pheromone Types

There are three types of pheromones: alarm, attraction, and avoidance.

Alarm Pheromones

These pheromones warn other turtles about danger. When a predator approaches, an alarm pheromone is released. The smell alerts nearby turtles to the threat.

Attraction Pheromones

Attraction pheromones help turtles find mates. Males release these pheromones when they are ready to mate. Females can detect them from great distances.

Avoidance Pheromones

When a predator attacks, a turtle releases an avoidance pheromone. It tells other turtles to flee or hide.

Non-Verbal Communication

Turtles also communicate using non-verbal behaviors such as body language and facial expressions.

Body Language

Turtles use their bodies to send messages to other turtles. For example, they may touch another turtle’s shell. Or they may make eye contact.

Facial Expressions

Turtles use facial expressions to express emotions. They raise their heads when they feel happy. And they lower their heads when they feel sad.

What Can Humans Learn From Turtles?

Humans feeding a turtle

We can learn many things from studying turtles. For instance, we can learn how to live peacefully with each other. We can also learn how to be kind to one another.

Here are some other ways that humans can learn from the way that turtles communicate:

  1. We can learn how to work well with nature. Turtles are very good at living in harmony with nature.
  2. We can learn how to have fun. Turtles enjoy life!
  3. We can learn how important it is to take care of our environment. Turtles are excellent stewards of the earth.
  4. We can learn what it means to love someone. Turtles show us that love is not just for humans.
  5. We can learn that we should respect all people. Turtles teach us that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity.
  6. We can learn about teamwork. Turtles are great team players.
  7. We can learn about friendship. Turtles are loyal friends.
  8. We can learn to appreciate beauty. Turtles are beautiful creatures.
  9. We can learn compassion. Turtles are compassionate animals.
  10. We can learn patience. Turtles are patient animals.
  11. We can gain wisdom. Turtles teach us to think before we act and to take life at a steady pace.

How Can Sea Turtles Hear Each Other?

The first thing you need to know about sea turtles is that they cannot hear each other. This is because they do not have ears.

Instead, they have flaps of skin on top of their head called “ear openings.” These ear openings allow sound waves to enter the animal’s brain.

Sea Turtle Ear Opening

Each ear-opening has two small holes. Sound waves enter through one hole and travel down to the brain. Then the sound waves exit through the other hole.

How Does Sound Travel Down To Their Brain?

Sound travels through water. So, if there is no water around the turtle, then the sound will not reach its brain.

But when the turtle swims in water, the sound waves move through the water and hit the turtle’s head. The sound waves vibrate against the turtle’s skull.

This causes tiny vibrations inside the skull. These vibrations travel along the nerves to the turtle’s brain.

There, the vibrations stimulate nerve cells that stimulate the turtle’s hearing centers.

Why Are Sea Turtles Blind?

Sea turtles are blind. However, they can see light. They have eyes located on the sides of their head.

Light enters these eyes and passes through the cornea and lens. It then hits the retina.

The retina sends signals to the brain and the brain interprets the signals as images, which helps them to communicate.


To conclude, turtles communicate by using various methods. Some use sounds, while others use touch. Some use sight, while others use smell. Different types of turtles will communicate in different ways.

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.