Aquatic animals live in an acoustic world in which they often rely on sound detection and recognition for various aspects of life that may affect survival and reproduction. Human exploitation of marine resources leads to increasing amounts of anthropogenic sound underwater, which may affect marine life negatively. Marine mammals and fishes are known to use sounds and to be affected by anthropogenic noise, but relatively little is known about invertebrates such as decapod crustaceans. We conducted experimental trials in the natural conditions of a quiet cove. We attracted shore crabs (Carcinus maenas) and common shrimps (Crangon crangon) with an experimentally fixed food item and compared trials in which we started playback of a broadband artificial sound to trials without exposure. During trials with sound exposure, the cumulative count of crabs that aggregated at the food item was lower, while variation in cumulative shrimp count could be explained by a negative correlation with crabs. These results suggest that crabs may be negatively affected by artificially elevated noise levels, but that shrimps may indirectly benefit by competitive release. Eating activity for the animals present was not affected by the sound treatment in either species. Our results show that moderate changes in acoustic conditions due to human activities can affect foraging interactions at the base of the marine food chain.
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