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  • 2019 Shannon_et_al_Submission_Final (1)

    Accepted author manuscript, 616 KB, PDF document

    Embargo ends: 31/12/99

  • Graeme Shannon
  • Megan F. McKenna
    National Park Service Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division
  • Grete Wilson-Henjum
    Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, USA
  • Lisa Angeloni
  • Kevin Crooks
  • George Wittemyer
Increasing anthropogenic noise is having a global impact on wildlife, particularly due to the masking of crucial acoustical communication. However, there have been few studies examining the impacts of noise exposure on communication in free-ranging terrestrial mammals. We studied alarm calls of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) across an urban gradient to explore vocal adjustment relative to different levels of noise exposure. There was no change in the frequency 5%, peak frequency or duration of the alarm calls across the noise gradient. However, the minimum frequency – a commonly used, yet potentially compromised metric – did indeed show a positive relationship with noise exposure. We suspect this is a result of masking of observable call properties by noise, rather than behavioural adjustment. In addition, the proximity of conspecifics and the distance to the perceived threat (observer) did affect the frequency 5% of alarm calls. These results reveal that prairie dogs do not appear to be adjusting their alarm calls in noisy environments but likely do in relation to their social context and the proximity of a predatory threat. Anthropogenic noise can elicit a range of behavioural and physiological responses across taxa, but elucidating the specific mechanisms driving these responses can be challenging, particularly as these are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Our research sheds light on how prairie dogs appear to respond to noise as a source of increased risk, rather than as a distraction or through acoustical masking as shown in other commonly studied species (e.g. fish, songbirds, marine mammals).

Keywords

  • acoustics, mammal, anthropogenic disturbance, communication, masking, predation
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 Nov 2019
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