The turtles at a popular aquarium in a remote Australian town learnt to hear a warning alarm that sounded every time a predator was near, according to a study published today.
The discovery, published in the journal Nature Communications, shows that reptiles such as turtles and turtleshells have evolved the ability to communicate with each other by hearing.
“These animals have the ability not only to detect predators but also to recognise each other,” Dr. Simon Fraser, an ornithologist at the University of Queensland, said in a statement.
“It’s a very different form of communication, as opposed to communication with a mouse or mouse-like animal.”
He added that the findings could help biologists better understand how the reptiles learn to recognise other animals and their predators.
Turtles and turtles have adapted to a wide range of environments, including the sea and land, where they live in small groups and are frequently exposed to water pollution.
The new findings could aid researchers studying the evolution of other senses in reptiles, such as smell and hearing, which have long been studied.
The findings are similar to those of previous studies showing that turtle ears can sense vibrations, but this study is the first to show the animals can even hear vibrations.
It also suggests that turtles are capable of detecting vibrations even when they are not actively moving, similar to the hearing of birds.
The turtle’s hearing is a result of an arrangement of specialized bone and cartilage in the shell called an ear canal, according the researchers.
The structure of the turtle’s ears can change as the animal grows, but the most common structure is the shell, which contains about 200 million bones, according a news release from the University.
Scientists have known for years that the turtle has hearing in the form of a tiny microphone, called a hearing horn.
The researchers say their new finding indicates that turtles also have hearing in their ears, but did not know exactly how.
The hearing of a turtle is thought to occur when it hears a sound and uses the vibrations to detect where it is and how long it is away.
Turtles also use the vibrations in order to locate and avoid predators.
“This discovery could lead to a better understanding of how these animals learn to communicate, in particular how they learn to associate sound with a particular object and when they will respond,” Fraser said.
Turtles were once thought to have a limited repertoire of sounds, and the discovery that they can hear vibrations is one of the first documented instances of this.
Previous research has shown that turtles can learn to distinguish between two sounds, like an arrow being fired from a gun or a rock hitting a tree.
“The ability to discriminate between two different sounds is very novel and opens up a whole new area of research into the evolution and evolution of the sense of hearing in reptiles,” Fraser added.
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.