Human activities can create noise pollution and there is increasing international concern about how this may impact wildlife. There is evidence that anthropogenic noise may have detrimental effects on behaviour and physiology in many species but there are few examples of experiments showing how fitness may be directly affected. Here we use a split-brood, counterbalanced, field experiment to investigate the effect of repeated boat-noise playback during early life on the development and survival of a marine invertebrate, the sea hare Stylocheilus striatus at Moorea Island (French Polynesia). We found that exposure to boat-noise playback, compared to ambient-noise playback, reduced successful development of embryos by 21% and additionally increased mortality of recently hatched larvae by 22%. Our work, on an understudied but ecologically and socio-economically important taxon, demonstrates that anthropogenic noise can affect individual fitness. Fitness costs early in life have a fundamental influence on population dynamics and resilience, with potential implications for community structure and function.
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