London: Human-made noise can have a detrimental impact on an animal’s use of information from scent, thereby putting them at greater risk of being attacked by predators, new research has found.
One obvious way in which human-made noise can cause animals problems is through the masking of valuable acoustic information.
“What our study shows for the first time is that there could also be disruption to the use of olfactory information; human-made noise could affect decision-making based on information gathered using a different sense,” said lead author of the study Amy Morris-Drake from the University of Bristol in England.
Using field-based experimental trials on dwarf mongooses in South Africa, the researchers combined sound recordings and fecal samples to demonstrate that road-noise playback negatively affected the mongooses’ ability to detect predator feces.
Even after detection, the additional noise led to less information gathering and less vigilance, making the mongooses more vulnerable to danger, according to the study published in the journal Current Biology.
“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 anthropogenic, or human-made, noise,” Andy Radford from the University of Bristol noted.
Closely monitoring the mongooses, the team found that their adaptive responses to predatory cues, such as increased inspection of the cue, vigilance scanning for danger and more time spent near the safety of the burrow, were all disrupted by road traffic noise.