Noise affects resource assessment in an invertebrate

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Anthropogenic noise is a global pollutant, affecting animals across taxa. However, how noise pollution affects resource acquisition is unknown. Hermit crabs (Pagurus bernhardus) engage in detailed assessment and decision-making when selecting a critical resource, their shell; this is crucial as individuals in poor shells suffer lower reproductive success and higher mortality. We experimentally exposed hermit crabs to anthropogenic noise during shell selection. When exposed to noise, crabs approached the shell faster, spent less time investigating it, and entered it faster. Our results demonstrate that changes in the acoustic environment affect the behaviour of hermit crabs by modifying the selection process of a vital resource. This is all the more remarkable given that the known cues used in shell selection involve chemical, visual and tactile sensory channels. Thus, our study provides rare evidence for a cross-modal impact of noise pollution.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Early online date12 Apr 2017
Publication statusEarly online date - 12 Apr 2017


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