When sounds collide: the effect of anthropogenic noise on a breeding assemblage of frogs in Belize, Central America

In: Behaviour


Many organisms depend on acoustic communication for myriad functions, and have evolved behaviours to minimize effects of naturally occurring acoustic interference. However, as habitats are subject to increased alteration, anthropogenic noise becomes unavoidable, and how animals overcome such interference is not well understood. In most ecosystems, only a subset of frog species is associated with disturbed habitats; the ability of these species to overcome exogenous noise suggests that habitat associations may be related to species' response to noise. We tested the hypothesis that frogs associated with largely undisturbed forest habitat would be less likely to increase call output in response to exogenous noise than would those associated with disturbed or open habitat. While this relationship was not significant, we found a slight trend supporting the hypothesis. We then asked whether anthropogenic noise affects chorus tenure at individual- or at chorus-levels. Male frogs exposed to anthropogenic noise decreased both the number of days present at the chorus and the nightly chorus duration relative to controls. Because females generally join choruses late at night to breed, the effects of noise shown here are likely to substantially decrease frog reproductive success; thus, the acoustic environment may play an important role in shaping population dynamics and in amphibian declines.

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