Anthropogenic noise affects vocal interactions

Heather McMullen, Rouven Schmidt, Hansjoerg P. Kunc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)
658 Downloads (Pure)


Animal communication plays a crucial role in many species, and it involves a sender producing a signal and a receiver responding to that signal. The shape of a signal is determined by selection pressures acting upon it. One factor that exerts selection on acoustic signals is the acoustic environment through which the signal is transmitted. Recent experimental studies clearly show that senders adjust their signals in response to increased levels of anthropogenic noise. However, to understand how noise affects the whole process of communication, it is vital to know how noise affects the receiver’s response during vocal interactions. Therefore, we experimentally manipulated ambient noise levels to expose male European robins (Erithacus rubecula) to two playback treatments consisting of the same song: one with noise and another one without noise. We found that males responding to a conspecific in a noise polluted environment increased minimum frequency and decreased song complexity and song duration. Thus, we show that the whole process of communication is affected by noise, not just the behaviour of the sender.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-128
Number of pages4
JournalBehavioural Processes
Early online date09 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


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