Interspecific variation in the response of fish to anthropogenic noise
anthropogenic noise, fish behaviour, fish hearing, sensory ecology, underwater acoustics
Elevated levels of anthropogenic noise, especially those observed through boating activity, can negatively impact fish species, but it remains unclear which species are most affected and which behavioural metrics are best used in assessing fish responses to underwater noise. The effects of boat sounds on freshwater species are of particular interest because freshwater environments are less studied than the marine realm despite comparably high levels of biodiversity. In the current study, we examine the behavioural responses to boat noise in two freshwater species that differ in their hypothesised response to sound inputs: the spottail shiner (Notropis hudsonius), a species with known hearing specialisations, and the bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus), a species with more generalised hearing capabilities. Fish were presented with boat noise in a laboratory setting, and their swimming, escape and foraging behaviours were assessed to examine differential responses in relation to hypothesised hearing abilities. Both species showed a decrease in general swimming behaviours but an increase in erratic movements in response to boat noise, indicative of stress responses for both species. Despite the similarities in response based on swimming behaviours however, only spottail shiners exhibited true escape responses to the onset of the noise stimulus, suggesting a more extreme reaction in the species with a more refined hearing ability. Taken together, these results show that freshwater fish can respond to increased levels of anthropogenic noise, but that the severity of the response may differ based on auditory structures and therefore presumed hearing ability. The differences seen between behavioural metrics used (swimming vs. escape responses) also demonstrate how care must be taken in choosing a metric when developing exposure guidelines for underwater sound exposures, as different metrics could lead to differential impact assessments.
Stasso, Jacob J.; Pieniazek, Rachel H.; and Higgs, Dennis M.. (2023). Interspecific variation in the response of fish to anthropogenic noise. Freshwater Biology, 68 (1), 25-32.