Sea Turtles: Why Do They Have Ears?

sea turtles
 Why Do Sea Turtles Have Ears?

Endangered Sea Turtles Deafened by Sudden Changes in Diving Pressure Induced by Seismic Air Guns, Explosives, and US Navy Sonar

Killing our sea turtles the easy way:  At a deep water location, just south of the continental slope in the Gulf of Mexico, loud booms could be detected all the time during a 12-hour recording period (Shooter). In fact, if the compass courses of all the seismic boats that have completed air gun surveys over the last 20 years were drawn by a gossamer-thin black line across a chart of the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf would disappear and be replaced by a solid black mass. Many other areas of the world’s oceans would take on a similar look.

airgun survey ship
500 airgun ships running 24 per day all year-long

At the present time, ~525 seismic survey vessels operating worldwide, all pounding away at the ocean floor around the clock — boom, boom, boom, boom, every 10 seconds, 24 hours per day, seven days per week!

Forty years ago, the oil industry used dynamite to search for oil; damage was easy to spot because dead fish, sea turtles, and dolphins floated to the surface leaving a trail behind the boat. Pressure from the fishing community forced the development of the airgun. The first devices were small, and not nearly as effective at sending a pressure pulse strong enough to penetrate 2-3 miles of solid seafloor. But, it didn’t take long for technology to change the picture.

Modern air guns can hold up to 4,000 cubic inches of highly compressed air. They are strung out behind the vessel in arrays of up to one hundred guns which are all fired at the same time to increase the amount of energy placed in the water. The result is a GOD-awesome boom every ten seconds which wraps the hull of the ship as though someone hit it with a giant hammer. This boom has an average pressure pulse of 1,800 pounds per square inch.

Why don’t the public hear the truth? The answer is simple: The oil industry has paid millions of dollars to the world’s top scientists and government employees to get them to write complex fabricated reports on how these air guns are harmless to animals. The truth is seismic air guns kill sea turtles by destroying their ears.


carcass sea turtles
Dead Sea Turtles

The material these scientists churned out is so twisted with nonsense as to be completely meaningless even to the average scientist. Not only are these biased reports loaded with misleading material, but they refer to the published fabrications of other scientists to prove their point. The first scientist lies and the rest all fall in line repeating the original lie and adding their own twisted version to it. It’s all a massive cover-up to keep the public in the dark. It works because the public either don’t care or they believe the fake science. The money the oil industry and the US Navy is willing to spend to hide the truth from the public is ample reward to attract hundreds of greedy scientists.

For example, Brazilian scientists completed a study not long ago entitled, “Occurrence of sea turtles during seismic surveys in Northeastern Brazil.” These scientists concluded the following:

Conclusions: The information about occurrence and distribution of sea turtle species in northeast Brazil acquired during seismic surveys in shallow water contributed to the knowledge of the species. Nevertheless, they were unable to give information about the effects of the activity on the distribution and behavior of sea turtles being which would have allowed for necessary corrections and adjustments in method to improve this information. Other factors that influenced the low effectiveness of sighting was the absence of previous information concerning sea turtles occurrence and distribution in the areas.”

“Finally, the high number of specimens unidentified and the low quality of information suggest it is necessary to training observers and use other techniques to monitoring sea turtles during seismic surveys. As this study only explores data from seismic surveys occurring in shallow waters during two years using ocean-bottom-cable techniques, it is recommended to extend this analysis to other years and techniques.” Biota Neotropica – Occurrence of sea turtles during seismic surveys in Northeastern Brazil

They went on to say, “The authors thank Grant Geophysical from Brazil Ltd. to make available the results of sightings of sea turtles.”

In other words, the crew of the seismic vessel counted the sea turtles and the scientists collected a small grant to write nonsense. But you don’t need a misleading group of scientists to tell you what to believe and not to believe. Common sense will tell you that a rapid pressure pulse of 2000 psi (one meter from the air gun) would surely blow out any sea turtle’s ear. This level is one hundred million times more powerful than the energy needed to deafen man.


Air gun arrays (100 air guns strung together and set to fire at the same time) are a thousand times more deadly than a single gun. However, greedy oil industry scientists insist that these deadly booms do not harm critters in the sea because the slower rise time to peak pressure gives the middle ear muscles time to respond and damp the signal. But sea turtles don’t have middle ear muscles to protect their ears. Simply put: Sea turtle ears are direct pressure sensing devices, not ears and we know them. Loud noise is not what deafen sea turtles — it is the excessive change in diving pressure that renders them deaf!

The use of explosives in the marine environment leaves little to question. Yet, to fool the public, crooked scientists paid by the oil industry to investigate the environmental damage of underwater explosives discuss issues like detonating velocities which range from 20,000 to 27,000 feet per second, and brisance which is the measure of shattering power. They also discuss such things as impulses, energy flux, and ideal damage parameters. All of this mumbo-jumbo scientific bullshit is again meaningless. The conversation should switch to the simple questions; and, there are only two. How big was the explosion, and how far away were the victims?

Why Do Sea Turtles Have Ears?

On 24 October 1989, channel 7 in Miami aired a story about a well-known sea turtle in the Florida Keys. The story featured a big burly 250-pound diver who was lobster hunting along a reef when a 500-pound sea turtle, called Crazy Charlie by the locals, attempted to copulate with him. The turtle pinned the diver down and started humping away. The incident nearly scared him to death.

This was the third time Charlie had tried to have sex with a diver. The news reporter said cataracts had weakened the old turtle’s vision and suggested he had trouble telling the difference between scuba divers and female turtles. But Crazy Charlie was not attracted to the diver by his looks — the popping sounds and the sight of the bubbles coming from his regulator drew him in. Both scuba divers and female sea turtles blow bubbles underwater that are easily seen and heard for a long distance. The bubbles serve as a sexual signal and a means whereby mating sea turtles can find each other.

Even though sea turtles do not have vocal cords, there is no reason to assume they are mute. Land species produce grunts, roars, and moans, which appears most frequent in males engaged in courting or copulation. Since turtles evolved from the sea to the land, one would expect that the grunts, roars, and moans of land turtles must somehow be connected with communications in their water-dwelling ancestors. But how do sea turtles grunt and roar underwater with no vocal box? The answer is simple and common sense. The sea turtle’s grunts and moans turn into big bubbles underwater. As the bubbles expand, they reach a point where the water pressure exceeds the internal air pressure and the bubble collapses with a loud bang. The popping bubble makes a perfect underwater signal. Sea turtles might even use a Morse Code of bubbles that are powerful messages to other sea turtles

It is common for divers blowing bubbles to see a lot of sea turtles. Close observation will show that the turtles swim to within sight of the scuba divers and then turn and swim away indicating that they were drawn in by acoustics, not vision. This type of signal is unique in the marine environment and would enable turtles to easily find mates in low visibility.

Another postulated use of hearing concerns the most endangered sea turtle of all; the Kemp’s Ridley. This species exhibits strange behavior when they come ashore to lay eggs on a small remote section of beach at Rancho Nuevo, Mexico. They land only in broad daylight, and only when the waves are pounding violently. This means that they might be homing in on the acoustical signature of this beach created by the pounding waves combined with some unique feature of the bottom terrain in this area.

Kemp’s Ridley began to disappear in the early 50’s. Scientists blamed it on the uncontrolled harvesting by local residents. But, this also corresponds with the massive use of explosives and seismic air guns for oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. The government has protected this species from beach-harvesting for years but they have not shown any comeback whatsoever. Auditory trauma might just be the “straw” that added to their demise after over-harvesting weakened their numbers.

But why are you hearing this from a sea captain?

Because crooked money-hungry lying scientists don’t talk about deafness and barotrauma in sea turtles because 98% of their research funds comes from the oil industry and the US Navy who don’t want pressure related injuries discussed. The reason these two groups do not want to discuss pressure related injury involves the “best scientific and commercial data available” clause found in the Endangered Species Act. The law mandates that the NMFS protect sea turtles to the “best scientific and commercial data available.” But if there is “NO SCIENTIFIC OR COMMERCIAL DATA AVAILABLE” on auditory trauma, then there is no protection whatsoever from pressure-related injury and the Endangered Species Act becomes worthless scribblings of crooked lawyers and politicians who knew that inserting this clause would gut the legislation before they even voted on it.

In other words, give the public a law that appears to protect endangered species while at the same time give the powerful oil industry a loophole big enough to swallow the entire Gulf of Mexico.

These greedy scientists know if they talk about the barotrauma in marine critters, then they will not get any more sea turtle blood money — it’s that simple!

One might think that every scientist who has ever studied sea turtles throughout history has missed an extremely important aspect of their survival because not one single word of scientific material has ever been written dealing with how life might be for a deaf sea turtle. The word “deafness” has never appeared in any scientific material or book about these endangered animals. Nor is there any research about why sea turtles even have ears in the first place. And, there’s absolutely nothing is the scientific literature about barotrauma is sea turtles!


Instead of proper research, crooked scientists report the leading causes of turtle mortality in the Gulf of Mexico is entrapment in fishing nets. On Florida’s East Coast, boat collisions are the most documented cause of death. Our genius scientists blame it all on fishermen and boaters when the real culprits are the ones who bribe them.

In my opinion, the greater percent of net entrapped turtles have suffered prior auditory damage created by the use of explosives and seismic air cannons (air gun arrays) in the marine environment. They are unable to determine the direction of an approaching noise so they swim to the bottom in the direct path of the shrimp fishing nets. Those struck by boats simply never hear the approaching vessel.



ear of sea turtles
                   Ears of sea turtle easily destroyed by airgun blast.

The method of auditory reception should show the areas of the ear more likely to suffer a pressure related injured during the BOOMING noises coming from a 100-gun array of seismic cannons.

The skin of the face covers the ear drum (tympanic membrane on the left of the above image). This area is relatively soft and yielding. You can feel it with your finger. The outer layer lies at the side of the head, well behind the eye, and above the level of the corner of the mouth. The middle layer of this membrane is particularly thick with a large amount of fatty tissue.

The acoustic impedance of this fatty tissue is identical to water so it does not soften the blow of a murderous BOOM,  A cartilage plate forms the inner layer, which is the main part of the extra columella. A heavy posterior ligament and a thin anterior ligament attach the eardrum.

The extra columella attaches to the columella. This pencil shaped rod attaches directly to the cochlea. This middle ear arrangement is odd compared to mammals due to the lack of a mechanical transformer to match the impedance of aerial sounds.

The tympanic cavity, the cavernous sinus, and the Eustachian tube of the sea turtle ear all contain enclosed air pockets and would be extremely sensitive to any pressure pulse, especially from seismic airgun arrays used to explore for oil and from distant explosions.

Pay close attention: An almost straight rod connects the outer ear of sea turtles directly to the inner ear. Obviously, sea turtles would not hear too well in the air. They would feel the vibrations through their feet when on land instead of an air conduction channel through the middle ear system.

A mechanical transformer in a well-developed middle ear (missing in sea turtles) has an important secondary function. It serves to protect the delicate inner ear. The muscles of such a system tighten automatically by a pre-programmed reflex response when vibration exceed certain limits; thereby, restricting movement to afford a great degree of protection. This total lack of a protection system in sea turtles is a major weakness of the ear underwater for this species. Intrusion from high-intensity sound could easily destroy their hearing.

It is also easy to understand why their ears have not evolved this protection. The coastal water habitat of sea turtles was a silent world, and void of excessive pressure changes before the recent invasion by man.

Water transmits pressure without significant loss. Peak overpressure from underwater explosive events is much higher at the same distance from their epicenters than the corresponding overpressure in air. For example, a 1 megaton explosion underwater will cause a 500 psi overpressure at 6.2 miles from the epicenter, but less than 1 psi for the same distance in the air. (Tsipis 1983)

Sound travels as a series of pressure variations. Traveling in air, the variations of pressure are low and the lightweight air molecule moves a great distance. Just the opposite is true in water. The acoustical pressure is 60 times higher; however, the water molecule moves 1/60th of the distance of air molecule. Sound underwater carries a short punch; but, it is 60 times more powerful!

High-intensity sound energy (a series of rapid pressure changes) underwater would react more violently with areas of anatomy which offers the greatest mismatch to sound in water (impedance). Flesh, skin, and fat, composed mostly of water, would offer less mismatch, and suffer the least damage. Sound energy (a series of rapid pressure changes) would be more destructive in the air pockets of the lungs, the tympanic cavity, the cavernous sinus, and the Eustachian tube of the sea turtle ear. Exposure to excessive pressure underwater would rupture the alveoli in the lungs and mutilate the entire hearing apparatus.

Moving down the scale of intensity, destructive pressure would cause minor damage in the lungs, and destroy the ear. On a lesser degree, only the ear would suffer barotrauma, and the turtle would be deafened, yet appear outwardly healthy.

Deafness does not kill sea turtles. If they can avoid shrimpers’ nets and speed boats they might survive for years.


Barger, J.E., Hamblen, H.R. (1980) The Air Gun explosive Underwater Transducer. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 68(4)

Coles, R.A. (1968) Hazardous Exposure to impulsive Noise. J.A.S.A. Vol 43 No. 2

Davis, H.& S.R. Silverman (1978) Hearing and Deafness. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston ISBN 0-03-089980-X

Fairbridge, R.W. (1974) Ed. Encyclopedia of Oceanography. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.

Gregory, J. B., C. E. Smith (1984) Environmental Effects Of Wellhead Removal by Explosives. Minerals Management Service OCS report MMS 84-0001

Ichiye, T., H. Kuo & Carnes, M.R. (1973) Assessment of Currents and Hydrography of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Texas A&M University contribution # 601

Ingmanson, D.E. & W. J. Wallace (1973) Oceanology: An Introduction. Wadsworth Publishing Co.

Kinsler, L.E. & Frey, A.R., (1962) Fundamentals of Acoustics, second ed. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York

Klima, E.F, et al (1987) Potential impact on sea turtles, dolphins, and fishes of explosives used in offshore platform removals. J.Acoust.Soc. Suppl. 1, vol.82, Fall 1987 p-S97

Klima, E.F. (1988) Personal Communications: Director, National Marine Fisheries Service, Galveston Texas

Molinari, R.L. et al (1977). Current Direction Data Measured by NOAA Laboratory in the Caribbean Sea & Gulf of Mexico from 10/75 t0 6/76 by satellite-tracked buoys (map).

Molinari, R.L. (1980) Current Variability and it’s Relation to Sea-Surface Topography in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Marine Geodesy Vol.3 pp409-436

Moore, C.J.B. (1977) Introduction to Psychology of Hearing. University Park Press ISBN 0-8391-0996-2

Richardson, Ed G., K. L. Graham (1987) Programmatic environmental assessment – Structure removal activities. Minerals Management Service MMS 87-0002 (OCS EIS/EA)

Saunders, J.C., S.P.Dear & Schneider, M.E. (1985) The Anatomical Consequences of Acoustic Injury: A Review and Tutorial. J. A. S. A. Vol.78 No.3 pp833-860

Shooter, J.H., T.E.DeMary & R.A.Koch, (1982) Ambient noise in the western Gulf of Mexico. Applied Res. Labs., University of Texas, ARL-TR-82-15

Spiess, F.N., J Northrop & Werner, E.W. (1968) Location and enumeration of underwater explosions in the North Pacific. J.A.S.A. Vol. 43 No.3 pp640-641

Tsipis, Kosta (1983?) Arsenal. (publisher unknown)

United States Coast Pilot (1987) 1-2-3-4-5 NOAA

Urick, J.R. (1979) Sound Propagation in the Sea. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Secretary of Defense)

Urick, J.R. (1984) Ambient Noise in the Sea. Naval Sea Systems Command, Dept. of Navy

Urick, J.R. & R.T.Moore (1958) Low-Frequency Sound Transmission in Very Shallow Water. Navy Mine Defense Lab. Tech. Paper 117

Walton, T.L. (1973) Littoral Drift Computations along The Coast of Florida by Means of on Ship Wave Observations. Coastal and Oceanographic Engineering Laboratory, Univ. of Florida-Gainesville Tech. report #15

Wever, E. G. (1978) The Reptile Ear—Its Structure and Function. Princeton University Press

Zwislocki, J. J. (1988) Personal communications. Founder, Inst. for Sensory Res. Syracuse University N. Y.