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The call of the Aldabra tortoise (Geochelone gigantea) (Reptilia, Testudinidae)

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Mating male Aldabra tortoises (Geochelone gigantea) emit loud, deep-pitched calls or "groans" while mounted. A bout of 34 groans was recorded and analyzed oscillographically and spectrographically. The sound energy occurs in periodic waves and there is no evidence of regularly pulsed energy. Calls are relatively stereotyped, with at least seven partial tones that range from 0.26 to 0.80 kHz. Only three tones occur throughout each call and in all calls, and these three have a harmonic relationship. More than half of the duration of the call, averaging 64 %, consists of a steady decrease in frequency, which occurs at the end. The beginnings of calls have the most energy, especially in the deepest tone, but there is considerable variation in the pattern of amplitude modulation. Call length and duration of the pauses between calls are relatively stereotyped, averaging 0.47 and 3.86 seconds, respectively. Movements made during "groan-thrusting" may be related to sound production, but the structures involved in the production, modulation, and resonance of the call are unknown. As the majority of the groan is apparently within the frequency range of highest auditory sensitivity for tortoises, there is an excellent chance that the sounds are perceived by the female, possibly intimidating her and facilitating mounting. Sounds are made by mating tortoises of a variety of species, and it would be interesting to know how these behaviors evolved.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoological Research, National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C. 20008


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