Comparative analysis of noise effects on wild and captive freshwater fish behaviour

Document Type


Publication Title

Animal Behaviour

Publication Date




First Page


Last Page



anthropogenic noise, bioacoustics, community effect, foraging behaviour, freshwater fish, sensory ecology, species dependence






Anthropogenic noise is globally increasing in aquatic ecosystems and causes adverse repercussions in many fish species, yet its effect on freshwater fish is not well understood. Here, we test the impact of boat noise on foraging and swimming behaviour on a number of wild freshwater fish species as well as captive black bullhead, Ameiurus melas, a common species in the Laurentian Great Lakes with known hearing specializations. In a laboratory setting, black bullhead were exposed to white noise, boat noise and a quiet control and monitored for changes in foraging behaviours and swimming patterns when presented with food. Black bullhead exposed to both boat noise and white noise foraged less and startled more in comparison to trials without noise. In a field setting, wild fishes with differing hearing capabilities were exposed to boat noise and a quiet control, then analysed for changes in both presence and foraging behaviour when presented with food. Field experiments were consistent with results from our laboratory study, resulting in decreased presence of wild fish and fewer foraging attempts made during boat noise exposure. However, the effects of noise in the field were highly variable by family, with fish in the Cyprinidae (or Leuciscidae) family, all of which have Weberian ossicle hearing specializations, exhibiting significantly larger decreases in feeding events and presence compared to other families (Gobiidae, Percidae and Centrarchidae) with more basic hearing abilities. Freshwater fishes alter their foraging behaviour during noise exposure, however, variation in hearing abilities may determine the extent to which their behaviour changes and the resulting degree of negative consequences.