Desert tortoises, as their name suggests, don’t encounter many large bodies of water. But surprisingly, all turtles, even desert tortoises, can hear better underwater, recent research finds.
"If a desert tortoise decided to stick its head underwater, it could hear better," said Katie Willis, a University of Maryland doctoral student and co-author of a study published online this week in the journal PLoS ONE.
The findings shed light on the evolution of turtles, suggesting they all share an aquatic ancestor, the researchers said.
Willis and her co-authors took MRI and CT scans of the inner ears of many different species of turtles. They calculated that in every case these relatively large, air-filled sacks inside the skull resonated, or vibrated, more powerfully underwater, where sound waves travel more quickly than in air…