Chronic playback of boat noise does not impact hatching success or post-hatching larval growth and survival in a cichlid fish
Copyright © 2014 Bruintjes and Radford. Distributed under Creative Commons CC-BY 4.0
Anthropogenic (man-made) noise has been shown to have a negative impact on the behaviour and physiology of a range of terrestrial and aquatic animals. However, direct assessments of fitness consequences are rare. Here we examine the effect of additional noise on early life stages in the model cichlid fish, Neolamprologus pulcher. Many fishes use and produce sounds, they are crucial elements of aquatic ecosystems, and there is mounting evidence that they are vulnerable to anthropogenic noise; adult N. pulcher have recently been shown to change key behaviours during playback of motor boat noise. Using a split-brood design to eliminate potential genetic effects, we exposed half of the eggs and fry from each clutch to four weeks of playbacks of noise originally recorded from small motor boats with the other half acting as a control (receiving no noise playback). There was no significant effect of additional noise on hatching success or fry survival, length or weight at the end of the exposure period. Although care should be taken not to generalize these findings on a single species from a laboratory study, our data suggest that moderate noise increases do not necessarily have direct negative impacts on early-life survival and growth. Further studies on a range of species in natural conditions are urgently needed to inform conservation efforts and policy decisions about the consequences of anthropogenic noise.
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