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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13634

Effects of vessel sound on oyster toadfish Opsanus tau calling behavior

A. G. Mackiewicz*, R. L. Putland, A. F. Mensinger

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In coastal waters, anthropogenic activity and its associated sound have been shown to negatively impact aquatic taxa that rely on sound signaling and reception for navigation, prey location, and intraspecific communication. The oyster toadfish Opsanus tau depends on acoustic communication for reproductive success, as males produce ‘boatwhistle’ calls to attract females to their nesting sites. However, it is unknown if in situ vessel sound impacts intraspecific communication in this species. Passive acoustic monitoring using a four-hydrophone linear array was conducted in Eel Pond, a small harbor in Woods Hole, MA, USA, to monitor the calling behavior of male toadfish. The number of calls pre- and post-exposure to vessel sound was compared. Individual toadfish were localized, and their approximate sound level exposure was predicted using sound mapping. Following exposure to vessel sound, the number of calls significantly decreased compared to the number of calls pre-exposure, with vessel sound overlapping the frequency range of male toadfish boatwhistles. This study provides support that anthropogenic sound can negatively affect intraspecific communication and suggests that in situ vessel sound has the ability to mask boatwhistles and change the calling behavior of male toadfish. Masking could lead to a reduction in intraspecific communication and lower reproductive efficiency within the Eel Pond toadfish population.