Effects of vibratory pile driver noise on echolocation and vigilance in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)
Peer Reviewed Publication
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
Branstetter, B. K., Bowman, V. F., Hose, D. S., Tormey, M., Banks, P., Finneran, J. J. and Jenkins, K.
Vibratory pile drivers, used for marine construction, can produce sustained, high sound pressure levels (SPLs) in areas that overlap with dolphin habitats. Dolphins rely on echolocation for navigation, detecting predators and prey, and to coordinate group behavior. This study examined the effects of vibratory pile driver noise on dolphin-sustained target detection capabilities through echolocation. Five dolphins were required to scan their enclosure and indicate the occurrences of phantom echoes during five different source levels of vibratory pile driver playback sound (no-playback control, 110, 120, 130, and 140dB re 1μPa). Three of the dolphins demonstrated a significant decrease in target detection performance at 140dB playback level that was associated with an almost complete secession of echolocation activity. The performance of two dolphins was not affected. All dolphins rapidly returned to baseline levels of target detection performance by their second replication. However, an increased number of clicks was produced at the highest playback SPL. The data suggest that the decrease in vigilant behavior was due to the vibratory pile driver noise distracting the dolphins and decreasing their motivation to perform the task.
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