For many species, noise pollution can be deadly: study

Some reef-dwelling fish are twice as likely to get gobbled up by predators in the presence of a noisy motorboat, according to a study released Friday.

See Full Article

The research, published in Nature Communications, adds to a growing body of evidence that noise pollution -- on land and in the water -- is a serious menace for wildlife.

Many mammals, birds and other animals use sound to locate food, avoid predators, navigate their environment, and even select a mate.

But all of these life-essential functions can be disrupted by noise from ships and sonar probes in the sea, motor vehicles and industry on land, or airplanes.

Sometimes the results are lethal.

The new study shows that when damselfish -- a family of several hundred species found mostly in the tropics -- become stressed by a motorboat overhead, their ability to evade predators is compromised.

The likely hunter in this case is the dusky dottyback, which likes to snack on young damselfish that have recently moved to reefs from the open sea, where they hatch.

Scientists led by Stephen Simpson of the University of Exeter conducted experiments in the lab and in the wild. Whether the noise came from a recording or a real boat, the outcome was the same.

The disoriented damselfish were six times less likely to dart away from an attack, and more than twice as likely to wind up as some other fish's meal, the study found.

"The combination of stress and poor responses to strikes by predators in why these fish become such easy prey," said Andy Radford, a co-author of the study and a researcher at the University of Bristol.

Scientists observed that the sound-addled fish consumed 20 to 30 per cent more oxygen, a sure sign of distress.

Beached whales

Noise pollution in the ocean often occurs in areas densely populated with marine life.

Shallow water coral reefs, for example, cover far less than one per cent of the ocean floor, but harbour more than a quarter of it's biodiversity.

Unfortunately for much of that fauna, humans also intensively exploit coral ecosystems, which means lots of motorboats. Some 500,000 will crisscross the waters above Australia's Great Barrier Reef by 2040, according to a government report.

Aggravating the impact, sound travels five times faster in water than in air, and -- due to water's density -- over far greater distances as well.

Damselfish, a common sight in salt-water aquariums, are not the only aquatic victims of human-induced sound.

Recent research has shown that pile-driving, seismic surveys and especially heavy traffic along coastal shipping lanes used by migrating whales have affected the giant sea mammals' ability to feed and communicate.

It has also fingered naval sonar as a suspect in the death of beaked whales so disoriented by the noise that they beach themselves, though the link cannot be proven experimentally.

On land, numerous studies have shown how noise pollution perturb animals as they gather food -- or try to avoid becoming another creature's midnight snack.

Some species of bat, for example, depend not on sonar but highly-developed hearing to detect beetles or centipedes moving through dirt and dry leaves. Woodpeckers similarly cock their heads to listen for hidden bugs after pecking at a tree branch.

Commercial jets passing overhead or trucks rumbling along a nearby road may be just loud enough to mask these telltale sounds.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Baby vital sign monitors 'not the solution' to new parents' anxiety, pediatrician says

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Smartphone applications paired with sensors to monitor babies' vital signs may appeal to parents anxious to make sure infants sleep safely through the night, but there's no medical evidence proving these products work, a new paper suggests. Source
  • Learn math in just 10 minutes a day? New app can help with that

    Tech & Science CBC News
    In just 10 minutes a day, you, too, can be good at math. No, it's not a cheesy infomercial. It's Minute School: An app by a new Waterloo startup that has micro-courses for high school and university students. Source
  • Is the pen mightier than the mouse?

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Researchers at the United States Military Academy at West Point wanted to better understand the impact of laptops and tablets in the classroom. In particular, they were interested in whether or not classroom computer use makes a difference to students' grades. Source
  • Snake catchers from India hunt pythons in Florida Everglades

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MIAMI -- Florida has gone halfway around the world to get help with its python problem. Wildlife officials recruited tribesmen from India to hunt the Burmese pythons believed to be decimating native mammals in the Everglades. Source
  • Experimental toilet diverts urine to make fertilizer

    Tech & Science CTV News
    This photo shows a special toilet that diverts urine for fertilizer, at the University of Michigan engineering building in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) Source
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 to feature smaller case, more screen space: report

    Tech & Science CTV News
    A new report lines up with previous rumors about April's expected addition to Samsung's set of flagship handsets, the Galaxy S8. Ahead of a March announcement and an April launch, two Samsung Galaxy S8 variants are being prepared with an emphasis on case size reduction and screen size maximization. Source
  • Google's Chromebook comes of age

    Tech & Science CTV News
    With new devices and now access to the entirety of the Google Play Store, the Chromebook is about to become a computer that puts a premium on productivity and practicality but without a premium price tag. Source
  • There's no place like home: NASA releases beautiful satellite photos of Earth

    Tech & Science CBC News
    NASA and and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have released incredible photos of home taken from a new satellite orbiting Earth called GOES-16. The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) are a number of satellites that both agencies have used to monitor meteorological conditions across the globe. Source
  • U of A research shows fracking fluids cause 'significant' harm to fish

    Tech & Science CTV News
    EDMONTON -- Research has found that liquids used to frack oil and gas wells can harm fish. A newly published paper by University of Alberta scientists concludes the water that flows from such wells causes significant damage. Source
  • Cruise ship passengers to visit HMS Erebus wreck this summer

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Cruise ship travellers may be snorkelling over the wreck of the Franklin Expedition's HMS Erebus this summer as Parks Canada teams up with a tour company to welcome visitors to the recently-discovered National Historic Site. Parks Canada and the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee have announced they are partnering with tour company Adventure Canada. Source