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Noisy Ships Creep Out Crabs

The cacophony of ships at sea is stressing shore crabs and could be bothering other marine life. Amy Kraft reports

A relaxing day at the beach. Then suddenly the peace is shattered—by the sound of ships. It can sour your mood. Now a study in the journal Biology Letters finds that noisy ships make crabs crabby, too. [Matthew A. Wale, Stephen D. Simpson and Andrew N. Radford, Size-dependent physiological responses of shore crabs to single and repeated playback of ship noise]

Researchers exposed different-sized shore crabs to either ship noise or ambient harbor noise.  The crabs that contended with the annoying ship sounds had higher metabolic rates than did their companions, an indicator of stress. And the larger crabs were put out the most.

Stressed crabs burn calories faster, which can stunt their growth in fisheries. Stressed wild crabs with increased appetites might need to travel to expand their feeding grounds, which raises their risk of running into predators.

The research suggests that crabs aren’t the only sea-dwelling species peeved by the noise, either. Companies are exploring ways to design quieter ships, in the hope of offering crabs and other marine life some peace and quiet.

—Amy Kraft

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

 

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