Motorboat noise impacts parental behaviour and offspring survival in a reef fish
Anthropogenic noise is a pollutant of international concern, with mounting evidence of disturbance and impacts on animal behaviour and physiology. However, empirical studies measuring survival consequences are rare. We use a field experiment to investigate how repeated motorboat-noise playback affects parental behaviour and offspring survival in the spiny chromis (Acanthochromis polyacanthus), a brooding coral reef fish. Repeated observations were made for 12 days at 38 natural nests with broods of young. Exposure to motorboat-noise playback compared to ambient-sound playback increased defensive acts, and reduced both feeding and offspring interactions by brood-guarding males. Anthropogenic noise did not affect the growth of developing offspring, but reduced the likelihood of offspring survival; while offspring survived at all 19 nests exposed to ambient-sound playback, six of the 19 nests exposed to motorboat-noise playback suffered complete brood mortality. Our study, providing field-based experimental evidence of the consequences of anthropogenic noise, suggests potential fitness consequences of this global pollutant.