Journal article Open Access

Data: No negative effects of boat sound playbacks on olfactory-mediated food finding behaviour of shore crabs in a T-maze

Jeroen Hubert; Jostijn J. van Bemmelen; Hans Slabbekoorn

Data abstract:

We performed a T-maze experiment with shore crabs. Here, we provide all data used for the analyses reported in the paper, videos of some of the trials, and videos on how we performed the experiment.


Paper abstract:

Anthropogenic noise underwater is increasingly recognized as a pollutant for marine ecology, as marine life often relies on sound for orientation and communication. However, noise may not only interfere with processes mediated through sound, but also have effects across sensory modalities. To understand the mechanisms of the impact of anthropogenic sound to its full extent, we also need to study cross-sensory interference. To study this, we examined the effect of boat sound playbacks on olfactory-mediated food finding behaviour of shore crabs. We utilized opaque T-mazes with a consistent water flow from both ends towards the starting zone, while one end contained a dead food item. In this way, there were no visual or auditory cues and crabs could only find the food based on olfaction. We did not find an overall effect of boat sound on food finding success, foraging duration or walking distance. However, after excluding deviant data from one out of the six different boat stimuli, we found that crabs were faster to reach the food during boat sound playbacks. These results, with and without the deviant data, seem to contradict an earlier field study in which fewer crabs aggregated around a food source during elevated noise levels. We hypothesise that this difference could be explained by a difference in hunger level, with the current T-maze crabs being hungrier than the free-ranging crabs. Hunger level may affect the motivation to find food and the decision to avoid or take risks, but further research is needed to test this. In conclusion, we did not find unequivocal evidence for a negative impact of boat sound on the processing or use of olfactory cues Nevertheless, the distinct pattern warrants follow up and calls for even larger replicate samples of acoustic stimuli for noise exposure experiments.


Paper reference:

Hubert, J., van Bemmelen, J.J., Slabbekoorn, H. (2021). No negative effects of boat sound playbacks on olfactory-mediated food finding behaviour of shore crabs in a T-maze. Environ. Pollut. 270. DOI:10.1016/j.envpol.2020.116184.

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