Behavioural and morphological changes in fish exposed to ecologically relevant boat noises
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
There is increasing concern about the effect of underwater noise on fish due to rising levels of anthropogenic noise. We performed experiments on the black bullhead (Ameiurus melas), a species with known hearing specializations and located within the Laurentian Great Lakes where there is considerable commercial and recreational boat traffic. We tested and compared physiology (baseline cortisol), behaviour (activity, sheltering), and morphology (ciliary bundles of hair cells) of bullhead to boat noise. At 140 dB re 1 μPa (−54.84 dB re 1 m·s−2), we saw clear behavioural effects in terms of both activity and sheltering levels despite no obvious morphological or physiological stress. Following both short-and long-period acute exposure to higher — but environmentally relevant — noise levels, bullhead were less active and sheltered more and also exhibited a decrease in ciliary bundles. These results suggest that there are sublethal effects of anthropogenic noise on fish behaviour and ciliary bundles, which may have direct implications on population health. Moreover, commonly used metrics such as stress hormones may not always offer the most relevant biomarker of the response to anthropogenic boat noise.
Mickle, Megan F.; Harris, Christopher M.; Love, Oliver P.; and Higgs, Dennis M.. (2019). Behavioural and morphological changes in fish exposed to ecologically relevant boat noises. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 76 (10), 1845-1853.