Effects of multiple impluses from a seismic air gun on bottlenose dolphin hearing and behaviour

Pay-walled Peer Reviewed Publication 2015

The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

To investigate the auditory effects of multiple underwater impulses, hearing thresholds were measured in three bottlenose dolphins before and after exposure to 10 impulses produced by a seismic air gun. Thresholds were measured at multiple frequencies using both psychophysical and electrophysiological (auditory evoked potential) methods. Exposures began at relatively low levels and gradually increased over a period of several months. The highest exposures featured peak sound pressure levels from 196 to 210 dB re 1 μPa, peak-peak sound pressure levels of 200-212 dB re 1 μPa, and cumulative (unweighted) sound exposure levels from 193 to 195 dB re 1 μPa2s. At the cessation of the study, no significant increases were observed in psychophysical thresholds; however, a small (9 dB) shift in mean auditory evoked potential thresholds, accompanied by a suppression of the evoked potential amplitude function, was seen in one subject at 8 kHz. At the highest exposure condition, two of the dolphins also exhibited behavioral reactions indicating that they were capable of anticipating and potentially mitigating the effects of impulsive sounds presented at fixed time intervals.

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