Why Do Turtles Cry? Do Sea Turtles Cry When Laying Eggs?

May 10, 2021

Why do turtles cry

Turtles are incapable of feeling a wide range of emotions like our furry pets do. They are prone to stress and anxiety easily, but they don’t normally feel emotions like sadness, happiness, and guilt like we do. So, if you have a turtle cry and wonder why, here’s the answer. 

Why Do Turtles Cry?

Turtles don’t cry to express their emotions when hurt, physically or mentally. Sea turtles cry to expel excess salt from their bodies through special glands positioned near the eyes. On the other hand, land turtles may shed tears or have watery eyes if their eyes are irritated or they’ve got a respiratory complication. 

Charles Darwin believed that monkeys and elephants could weep. But modern scientists have concluded that humans are the only species on the planet that will shed tears and break down when sentimental. So, don’t worry – your turtle’s not crying over something you said to him. He forgives you!

Now, let’s dissect the two reasons mentioned above on why do turtles cry in detail below! 

Why Do Sea Turtles Cry?

Sea turtles spend their entire lives in saltwater. Even though they’re tremendously tolerant to salinity, they still need to eliminate the excess salt. But reptilian kidneys aren’t strong enough to pass big volumes of salt. So, they’ve specialized secretary glands located near each eye that discharges excess salt. 

Sea turtle crying

These glands, known as lachrymal glands, serve a crucial function in sea turtles. Excessive salt buildup can lead to poisoning. And these glands are consistently at work to avoid that. They actively pump out salt ions out of the eye into their tears – giving the impression of crying. 

Sea turtles continuously need to run these glands to maintain the correct saline balance in their bodies. 

Researches have shown that crying also helps sea turtles with protecting their eyes from the sand. 

Why Do Land Turtles Cry?

Unlike their sea cousins, land turtles don’t have special glands on their bodies to get rid of the salt. Good news – they don’t have excess salt in their body either – unless you feed them a sodium-rich diet every day. 

So, land turtles ‘cry’ when their eyes are irritated or infected. Land turtles often have to deal with harsh weather conditions, and dust particles and sand often enter their eyes. As a result, they can shed tears from their eyes to get rid of the pollutants. 

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Why Is My Pet Turtle Crying? 

Your pet turtle isn’t crying because it’s sad. Most probably, he has watery eyes due to an eye infection. It could also be a respiratory disease, which often reflects its symptoms through the eyes. Some owners also report that imbalanced humidity in the tank can lead to watery eyes. 

Pet turtle crying

If the ‘teary’ eyes are followed by other signs like cloudiness, swelling, and itchiness, most probably, it is an infection. You need to book an appointment with a vet to assess that. 

As for humidity, I read in several forums that if the substrate isn’t moist enough, terrestrial turtles, like a Box turtle, cannot get enough humidity they require, which causes watery eyes. 

Once again, don’t worry – your turtle isn’t sad or worried. He’s not going through a midlife crisis. But if you find your turtle shedding ‘tears’ on multiple occasions, it’s essential to seek medical guidance. 

Why Do Sea Turtles Cry When Laying Eggs?

This is an interesting misconception.

Sea turtles don’t cry when laying eggs due to pain. They cry because they have to dispose of the excess salt from their body. We associate crying with egg-laying because it’s one of those rare instances they come to shore. But the truth is that they cry in the sea as well. 

Crying also serves another function. As they dig and lay on sandy beaches for hours on end, crying helps them shield their eyes from blowing sand. 

Do Butterflies Drink Turtle’s Tears? 

Just imagine. Does it feel like a scene straight out of a Disney fairytale? Our nature is 100 times more fascinating than any magical story. 

Yes, butterflies drink turtle tears. Turtle tears have high sodium content they need for reproduction. And since butterflies quickly lose sodium from their bodies during mating and egg-laying processes, they rely on salty turtle tears.

Besides sodium, it is believed that turtle tears also contain essential amino acids butterflies require to breed. But this unique phenomenon is yet to be studied in depth. 

Many think this helps the turtles clean their eyes too. However, besides slight discomfort, they don’t really get affected – negatively or positively. 

Here’s a heartwarming video for you!

But butterflies aren’t the only species to enjoy this interspecies friendship with turtles. Bees, too, have been documented doing so. 

That’s all there’s to know about why do turtles cry. Since they don’t shed tears to express their emotions, is there any other outlet they use?

Definitely. 

Turtles usually express their emotions through vocal sounds. I’ll describe in brief below so you can understand your reptilian friend better. 

Why Do Turtles Make Noise?

Turtles make noise to communicate – simple as that. The noise they produce varies depending on their motive behind communication. For instance, it could be a call to mate, express aggression, or even coordinate hatching. The noise could range from clucks and clucks to panting and hissing. 

However, due to the low frequency and rarity of the noise, humans can seldom listen to what the turtle has to say. 

When handling, turtles often hiss, pant, and produce an unusual cry-like sound. And that clearly means one thing – they’re not enjoying your attention. In such situations, it’s better to leave the turtle alone. 

If your turtle is being particularly noisy in his habitat, this could be due to a health condition, unsuitable environment, or territorial aggression (if you have multiple turtles). Once again, evaluate the situation and make necessary arrangements. 

Frequently Asked Question

Tortoise

Do Tortoises Cry? 

Yes, turtles’ close cousins, tortoises, also cry, and they’ve their own reasons. Your tortoise might be shedding tears as part of normal drainage, defense against the dusty and dry environment, an injury, dehydration, or a respiratory infection. 

Like turtles, tortoises don’t cry to express emotions either. 

Other reasons are pretty obvious. I’ll quickly explain what regular drainage means. 

Tortoises don’t have tear ducts that can drain tears away from the eyes. That’s why any kind of secretion from their eyes simply rolls down their cheeks. This usually happens in minimal quantities. You will rarely see that happen. 

But if it’s becoming too noticeable and is accompanied by other symptoms like swelling, redness, and cloudiness, it’s time to ring the vet. 

Conclusion On Why Do Turtles Cry

Turtles don’t cry because they’re sad. They don’t shed happy tears either. 

In fact, crying serves a vital function in turtles. 

For sea turtles, it helps to get rid of the excess salt buildup in their body. This is done by a unique organ called lachrymal glands, which happens to be situated near the eyes. As a result, turtles shed excessive salt ions through their eyes in the form of tears. 

Land turtles, on the other hand, cry if their eyes are irritated or infected. In fact, it’s not only exclusive to land turtles. This can also be seen in aquatic and semi-aquatic species like Painted turtles and Red-Eared Sliders. 

If you find your pet turtle constantly shedding tears, it’s due to a medical condition. If not treated in time, it can even lead to blindness or grave respiratory complications. Make sure to seek treatment in time!

Keep Reading!

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Can Turtles Breathe Underwater? 2 Crazy Ways Turtles Intake Oxygen Underwater!

Do Turtles Hibernate? Find Out What Species Don’t!

rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.