Impacts of regular and random noise on the behaviour, growth and development of larval Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua)
Anthropogenic noise impacts behaviour and physiology in many species, but responses could change with repeat exposures. As repeat exposures can vary in regularity, identifying regimes with less impact is important for regulation. We use a 16-day split-brood experiment to compare effects of regular and random acoustic noise (playbacks of recordings of ships), relative to ambient-noise controls, on behaviour, growth and development of larval Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). Short-term noise caused startle responses in newly hatched fish, irrespective of rearing noise. Two days of both regular and random noise regimes reduced growth, while regular noise led to faster yolk sac use. After 16 days, growth in all three sound treatments converged, although fish exposed to regular noise had lower body width–length ratios. Larvae with lower body width–length ratios were easier to catch in a predator-avoidance experiment. Our results demonstrate that the timing of acoustic disturbances can impact survival-related measures during development. Much current work focuses on sound levels, but future studies should consider the role of noise regularity and its importance for noise management and mitigation measures.