A Quieter Ocean: Experimentally Derived Differences in Attentive Responses of Tursiops truncatus to Anthropogenic Noise Playbacks before and during the COVID-19-Related Anthropause
The effects of anthropogenic noise continue to threaten marine fauna, yet the impacts of human-produced sound on the broad aspects of cognition in marine mammals remain relatively understudied. The shutdown of non-essential activities due to the COVID-19-related anthropause created an opportunity to determine if reducing levels of oceanic anthropogenic noise on cetaceans affected processes of sensitization and habituation for common human-made sounds in an experimental setting. Dolphins at Dolphin Quest Bermuda were presented with three noises related to human activities (cruise ship, personal watercraft, and Navy low-frequency active sonar) both in 2018 and again during the anthropause in 2021 via an underwater speaker. We found that decreased anthropogenic noise levels altered dolphin responses to noise playbacks. The dolphins spent significantly more time looking towards the playback source, but less time producing burst pulse and echolocation bouts in 2021. The dolphins looked towards the cruise ship sound source significantly more in 2021 than 2018. These data highlight that different sounds may incur different habituation and sensitization profiles and suggest that pauses in anthropogenic noise production may affect future responses to noise stimuli as dolphins dishabituate to sounds over time.
Stevens, P.E.; Allen, V.; Bruck, J.N. A Quieter Ocean: Experimentally Derived Differences in Attentive Responses of Tursiops truncatus to Anthropogenic Noise Playbacks before and during the COVID-19-Related Anthropause. Animals 2023, 13, 1269. https:// doi.org/10.3390/ani13071269
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