Anthropogenic noise is an increasingly widespread pollutant, with a rapidly burgeoning literature demonstrating impacts on humans and other animals. However, most studies have simply considered if there is an effect of noise, examining the overall cohort response. Whilst substantial evidence exists for intraspecific variation in responses to other anthropogenic disturbances, this possibility has received relatively little experimental attention with respect to noise. Here, we used field-based playbacks with dwarf mongooses (Helogale parvula) to test how traffic noise affects vigilance behaviour, and to examine potential variation between individuals of different age class, sex and dominance status. Foragers exhibited a stronger immediate reaction and increased their subsequent vigilance (both that on the ground and as a sentinel) in response to traffic-noise playback compared to ambient-sound playback. Traffic-noise playback also resulted in sentinels conducting longer bouts and being more likely to change post height or location than in ambient-sound playback. Moreover, there was evidence of variation in noise responses with respect to age class and dominance status, but not sex. In traffic noise, foraging pups were more likely to flee and were slower to resume foraging than adults; they also tended to increase their vigilance more than adults. Dominants were more likely than subordinates to move post during sentinel bouts conducted in traffic-noise trials. Our findings suggest that the vigilance–foraging trade-off is affected by traffic noise, but that individuals differ in how they respond. Future work should therefore consider intrapopulation response variation to understand fully the population-wide effects of this global pollutant.
- intraspecific variation
- traffic noise