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Journal of Experimental Biology








Sea turtles reside in different acoustic environments with each life history stage and may have different hearing capacity throughout ontogeny. For this study, two independent yet complementary techniques for hearing assessment, i.e. behavioral and electrophysiological audiometry, were employed to (1) measure hearing in post-hatchling and juvenile loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta (19-62 cm straight carapace length) to determine whether these migratory turtles exhibit an ontogenetic shift in underwater auditory detection and (2) evaluate whether hearing frequency range and threshold sensitivity are consistent in behavioral and electrophysiological tests. Behavioral trials first required training turtles to respond to known frequencies, a multi-stage, time-intensive process, and then recording their behavior when they were presented with sound stimuli from an underwater speaker using a two-response forced-choice paradigm. Electrophysiological experiments involved submerging restrained, fully conscious turtles just below the air-water interface and recording auditory evoked potentials (AEPs) when sound stimuli were presented using an underwater speaker. No significant differences in behavior-derived auditory thresholds or AEP-derived auditory thresholds were detected between post-hatchling and juvenile sea turtles. While hearing frequency range (50-1000/1100 Hz) and highest sensitivity (100-400 Hz) were consistent in audiograms pooled by size class for both behavior and AEP experiments, both post-hatchlings and juveniles had significantly higher AEP-derived than behavior-derived auditory thresholds, indicating that behavioral assessment is a more sensitive testing approach. The results from this study suggest that post-hatchling and juvenile loggerhead sea turtles are low-frequency specialists, exhibiting little differences in threshold sensitivity and frequency bandwidth despite residence in acoustically distinct environments throughout ontogeny.

Original Publication Citation

Lavender, A. L., Bartol, S. M., & Bartol, I. K. (2014). Ontogenetic investigation of underwater hearing capabilities in loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) using a dual testing approach. Journal of Experimental Biology, 217(14), 2580-2589. doi:10.1242/jeb.096651