Anthropogenic noise pollution from pile-driving disrupts the structure and dynamics of fish shoals

James E. Herbert-Read*, Louise Kremer, Rick Bruintjes, Andrew N. Radford, Christos C. Ioannou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)
392 Downloads (Pure)


Noise produced from a variety of human activities can affect the physiology and behaviour of individual animals, but whether noise disrupts the social behaviour of animals is largely unknown. Animal groups such as flocks of birds or shoals of fish use simple interaction rules to coordinate their movements with near neighbours. In turn, this coordination allows individuals to gain the benefits of group living such as reduced predation risk and social information exchange. Noise could change how individuals interact in groups if noise is perceived as a threat, or if it masked, distracted or stressed individuals, and this could have impacts on the benefits of grouping. Here, we recorded trajectories of individual juvenile seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) in groups under controlled laboratory conditions. Groups were exposed to playbacks of either ambient background sound recorded in their natural habitat, or playbacks of pile-driving, commonly used in marine construction. The pile-driving playback affected the structure and dynamics of the fish shoals significantly more than the ambient-sound playback. Compared to the ambient-sound playback, groups experiencing the pile-driving playback became less cohesive, less directionally ordered, and were less correlated in speed and directional changes. In effect, the additional-noise treatment disrupted the abilities of individuals to coordinate their movements with one another. Our work highlights the potential for noise pollution from piledriving to disrupt the collective dynamics of fish shoals, which could have implications for the functional benefits of a group’s collective behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20171627
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1863
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2017


  • Collective behaviour
  • Global change
  • Noise
  • Pile-driving
  • Shoaling


Dive into the research topics of 'Anthropogenic noise pollution from pile-driving disrupts the structure and dynamics of fish shoals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this