Why Do Turtles Cry? (The Scientific Reason Behind Their Crying)

Image of a crying turtle

Humans often connect crying to emotions. We generally cry when we are sad or in grief. So, does the same apply to turtles? Do turtles cry when they are hurt or in sorrow? Or is there any other reason? Why do turtles cry?

Turtles cry to get rid of the excess salt from their bodies. Turtles maintain the salt content in their body by crying. Accumulation of excess salt is poisonous for their health. Other than to get rid of the extra salt, land turtles cry to protect their eyes from dust particles and keep them moist.

Let’s now understand all the factors related to turtle crying.

The Scientific Reason Behind Turtle’s Cry

Turtles do not cry like humans or other animals. Neither do they shed tears when they are hurt, sad, or emotional. Instead, there is a scientific reason for their crying.

Most of the marine turtles spend a considerable amount of time in the sea. Due to the saline water, salt gets accumulated in their body as they drink that water.

Reptiles do not have efficient kidneys like humans. So, turtles are unable to excrete the excess salt through urine. This work is done by their eyes. There are secretive glands in turtles’ eyes. Turtles shed tears so that the excessive salt gets excreted from their body through the salty tears.

Alright! So, turtles cry often in the water to get rid of the excess salt from their body. But what about land turtles? Land turtles do not live in the sea or in saline environments. So why do they cry?

Let’s find out.

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Why Do Land Turtles Cry?

Land turtles spend a considerable amount of time on the land. Unlike marine turtles, land turtles do not spend their entire life in seawater.

So, the concentration of salt in their body is less. This does not mean that land turtles do not cry or cry less. Land turtles have other reasons to cry.

Since land turtles live on land, their primary concern is to protect their eyes from the harsh environment. In a dry climate, their eyes need moistness. Also, there are dust particles on the land and in the air.

In such harsh weather conditions, land turtles face the challenge of keeping the dirt away from their eyes. For this reason, land turtles have tear glands in their eyes. These tear glands are responsible for producing salty tears. These glands help the turtles to flush out the dust particles from their eyes. They also help in maintaining the salt content in the turtle’s body.

That is why land turtles often cry to remove the excess salt and to keep their eyes clean and moist from the dirt around them.

Why Do Sea Turtles Cry?

Sea turtles spend their entire life in the sea. They are physically adapted to the saline environment without any access to fresh water. As they stay in the sea, sea turtles drink the seawater to keep themselves hydrated.

However, the seawater contains large amounts of salt in it. So the excess salt needs to be excreted. Otherwise, it becomes poisonous for the sea turtles.

Sea turtles are unable to excrete the excess salt through urine. Instead, they have specialized secretory glands located in the corner of each eye. These glands do the work of pumping the salt ions into their tears. They need to run these glands continuously to maintain the correct balance of salt in their bodies.

Sea turtles shed the excess salt from their bodies through the eyes in the form of tears. They need to do this regularly as salt gets accumulated in their body due to the saline seawater.

Now you know sea turtles cry only to remove the excess salt, which is poisonous if not excreted. However, you may have seen a female turtle crying while laying eggs. So, is the egg-laying process painful?

Related Further Reading:

Do Sea Turtles Cry When They Lay Eggs?

Sea turtles don’t cry while laying eggs. But, you may have noticed tears in the eyes of the sea turtles while laying eggs.

Female sea turtles come on the shore to lay their eggs. That is the only time when they can be seen on land. So, we often associate sea turtle’s crying with the egg-laying process as that is the only time when we see tears in their eyes. Otherwise, sea turtles spend their entire life in the sea.

However, the reason for tears in the sea turtles’ eyes is to get rid of the dust particles that get stuck in their eyes. Nesting eggs usually takes a couple of hours. So, the saline solution that appears to be like tears helps the sea turtles to keep their eyes moist. Apart from that, it also helps to maintain the salt content in the turtle’s body.

Do Turtles Cry When Killed?

Green sea turtles are considered to be endangered in most parts of the world. The killing of these turtles is brutal. People cut the turtles while they are alive to extract the meat from their shells.

While the turtle is being torn apart, the eyes of these turtles become watery. It appears as if the turtles are crying in pain while being slaughtered.

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Parting Thoughts

Turtles do not cry when they are sad or hurt. Instead, there is a scientific reason for their crying.

Sea turtles cry to excrete the excess salt from their body. Since they spend their entire life in the sea, the salt accumulates in their body due to saline water. Tears do the work of getting rid of the surplus salt and maintaining the salt content in the body.

On the other hand, land turtles cry to protect their eyes from harsh environments. Crying also helps in keeping their eyes moist and in expelling the excess salt from their body.