Behavioral responses to predatory sounds predict sensitivity of cetaceans to anthropogenic noise within a soundscape of fear
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As human activities impact virtually every animal habitat on the planet, identifying species at-risk from disturbance is a priority. Cetaceans are an example taxon where responsiveness to anthropogenic noise can be severe but highly species and context specific, with source–receiver characteristics such as hearing sensitivity only partially explaining this variability. Here, we predicted that ecoevolutionary factors that increase species responsiveness to predation risk also increase responsiveness to anthropogenic noise. We found that reductions in intense-foraging time during exposure to 1- to 4-kHz naval sonar and predatory killer whale sounds were highly correlated (r = 0.92) across four cetacean species. Northern bottlenose whales ceased foraging completely during killer whale and sonar exposures, followed by humpback, long-finned pilot, and sperm whales, which reduced intense foraging by 48 to 97%. Individual responses to sonar were partly predicted by species-level responses to killer whale playbacks, implying a similar level of perceived risk. The correlation cannot be solely explained by hearing sensitivity, indicating that species- and context-specific antipredator adaptations also shape cetacean responses to human-made noise. Species that are more responsive to predator presence are predicted to be more disturbance sensitive, implying a looming double whammy for Arctic cetaceans facing increased anthropogenic and predator activity with reduced ice cover.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2022 ;Volum 119.(13) s.