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Why do sea turtles cry when they lay eggs? © iStock

Why do sea turtles cry when they lay eggs?

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Reptiles have less efficient kidneys than mammals, but that doesn't make them so unhappy they cry.

Asked by: Vicky Bateman, St Albans


Reptiles have less efficient kidneys than mammals and they can’t produce urine with a higher salt concentration than the seawater they drink. To avoid poisoning themselves with salt buildup, sea turtles have a gland in each eye that actively pumps salt ions into their tears. They need to run these glands continuously to maintain the correct balance of salt in their bodies.

We associate crying with egg laying because that’s the only time they come ashore, but they cry in the sea as well. The tears also help flush sand from their eyes.


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luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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