Lost in translation: Traffic noise disrupts communication between species

January 30, 2017

Research by scientists at the University of Bristol has found that man-made noise can hinder the response of animals to the warning signals given by other species, putting them at greater risk of death from predators.

Many animals are known to eavesdrop on the alarm calls of other species, effectively translating a foreign language to gather valuable information about the presence of predators. Using field-based experiments in South Africa, the researchers from the University's School of Biological Sciences, demonstrated that traffic noise reduces the likelihood of dwarf mongooses fleeing to the warning signals uttered by tree squirrels.

Lead author Amy Morris-Drake said: "The lack of an appropriate escape response could result from noise-induced distraction or stress. Alternatively, noisy conditions could partially mask the tree squirrel vocalisations, making it harder for the dwarf mongooses to extract the relevant information."

Co-lead author Anna Bracken added: "While lots of work has focussed on whether animals can adjust their vocalisations to avoid the effects of masking, it is often difficult to determine what that might mean for survival. By looking at responses to alarm calls, there is a direct link to survival; a lack of response could result in death."

The Bristol team studied the behaviour of wild dwarf mongoose groups who were so familiar with the researchers' presence that they could walk within a few feet of them. Co-author Dr Julie Kern explained: "This habituation allows us to conduct ecologically relevant experiments in the mongooses' natural habitat while collecting detailed and accurate information."

Professor Andy Radford said: "We've known for a long time that noise from urbanisation, traffic and airports can detrimentally affect humans by causing stress, sleep deprivation, cardiac problems and slower learning. What's becoming increasingly clear is that a lot of other species - mammals, birds, fish, insects and amphibians - are also impacted in all sorts of ways by man-made noise."

Amy Morris-Drake concluded: "Our study indicates the importance of considering the whole information network of a species when assessing impacts of noise pollution. By interfering with information-transfer between different species, as well as within the same species, man-made noise is likely to be a more extensive issue than previously thought."
-end-


University of Bristol

Related Stress Articles from Brightsurf:

Stress-free gel
Researchers at The University of Tokyo studied a new mechanism of gelation using colloidal particles.

Early life stress is associated with youth-onset depression for some types of stress but not others
Examining the association between eight different types of early life stress (ELS) and youth-onset depression, a study in JAACAP, published by Elsevier, reports that individuals exposed to ELS were more likely to develop a major depressive disorder (MDD) in childhood or adolescence than individuals who had not been exposed to ELS.

Red light for stress
Researchers from the Institute of Industrial Science at The University of Tokyo have created a biphasic luminescent material that changes color when exposed to mechanical stress.

How do our cells respond to stress?
Molecular biologists reverse-engineer a complex cellular structure that is associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS

How stress remodels the brain
Stress restructures the brain by halting the production of crucial ion channel proteins, according to research in mice recently published in JNeurosci.

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.

How plants handle stress
Plants get stressed too. Drought or too much salt disrupt their physiology.

Stress in the powerhouse of the cell
University of Freiburg researchers discover a new principle -- how cells protect themselves from mitochondrial defects.

Measuring stress around cells
Tissues and organs in the human body are shaped through forces generated by cells, that push and pull, to ''sculpt'' biological structures.

Cellular stress at the movies
For the first time, biological imaging experts have used a custom fluorescence microscope and a novel antibody tagging tool to watch living cells undergoing stress.

Read More: Stress News and Stress Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.