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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 485:295-300 (2013)  -  DOI:

Boat noise disrupts orientation behaviour in a coral reef fish

Sophie Holles1,2,*, Stephen D. Simpson3, Andrew N. Radford1, Laetitia Berten2,4, David Lecchini2,5 

1School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UG, UK
2USR 3278 CNRS-EPHE, CRIOBE, BP1013 Papetoai, 98729 Moorea, French Polynesia
3Biosciences, College of Life & Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Geoffrey Pope, Stocker Road, Exeter EX4 4QD, UK
4Laboratoire de Morphologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, University of Liege, 4000 Liege, Belgium
5Laboratoire d’Excellence CORAIL, 97829 Moorea, French Polynesia

ABSTRACT: Coral reef fish larvae use sound to find suitable habitat during their vital settlement stage. Yet boat noise, which can cause stress and avoidance behaviour, and may cause masking via reduction of perceptual space, is common around coral islands and continental shelf habitats due to boat activity associated with fishing, tourism and transport of passengers and cargo. In a choice chamber experiment with settlement-stage coral reef fish larvae of the species Apogon doryssa, the directional responses of larvae were tested to 5 different noise types: Reef, Reef+Boat, Ocean, Ocean+Boat and White noise. The results showed that 69% of fish swam towards Reef playback compared with only 56% during Reef+Boat playback, while 44% of fish larvae moved away from Reef+Boat playback compared to only 8% during Reef playback. Significant directional responses were not observed during White noise, Ocean noise or Ocean+Boat noise playback. Overall, this study suggests that anthropogenic noise could have a disruptive effect on the response of fish larvae to natural reef sound, with implications for settlement and population dynamics in coral reef habitats disturbed by boat traffic.

KEY WORDS: Anthropogenic impact · Boat noise · Larval fish · Settlement behaviour · Settlement cue

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Cite this article as: Holles S, Simpson SD, Radford AN, Berten L, Lecchini D (2013) Boat noise disrupts orientation behaviour in a coral reef fish. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 485:295-300.

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