Investigating the impact of anthropogenic noise on the decision-making of dwarf mongoose offspring

Lauren S Vane, Amy Morris-Drake, Josh J Arbon, Robyn Thomson, Megan R Layton, Julie M Kern, Andrew N Radford

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

Abstract

Anthropogenic (man-made) noise constitutes a novel and widespread pollutant, with its increasing prevalence in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems resulting in alterations of natural soundscapes. There is proliferating evidence that noise leads to maladaptive behaviour in wildlife, yet few studies have addressed the effect on mammalian parent–offspring interactions. We investigated the impact of road noise on dwarf mongoose (Helogale parvula) offspring nearest-neighbour decision-making whilst foraging, using a field-based playback experiment. We predicted that offspring would forage closer to groupmates, especially adult and dominant individuals, when experiencing road noise compared to ambient sound to reduce communication masking and alleviate stress. We also predicted that noise would have a reduced effect with increasing offspring age due to reduced reliance on adult groupmates for provisioning and predator-defence. However, we found that mean nearest-neighbour distance and nearest-neighbour intrinsic characteristics (age, sex and dominance status) did not differ significantly between sound treatments, and these responses did not vary significantly with focal individual age. Noise may not impact nearest-neighbour decision-making due to habituation from chronic natural exposure; alternatively, noise could induce stress and distraction, resulting in maladaptive decision-making. Future work should aim to detangle the underlying mechanisms mediating parent–offspring interactions in conditions of anthropogenic noise.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2 Apr 2024

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