Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have conducted research into the effects of noise on marine life.
The preliminary results were presented between February 24, 2022, and March 4, 2022, at the online 2022 Ocean Sciences Meeting. Sadly initial results of the study show that turtles may be more susceptible to underwater noise pollution the previously thought, and there is evidence of hearing loss for these poor creatures.
Study co-author and WHOI postdoctoral investigator Andria Salas stated:
“Our study is the first to support that these animals are vulnerable to underwater hearing loss after exposure to intense noise. We have assumed that turtles experience hearing loss when exposed to sufficiently intense sounds as observed in other animals, but there hasn’t been any data collected specifically on turtles.”
The effect of a relatively low level of noise on turtles came as a surprise to the researchers. They found that the noise produced a reaction in the turtles, reducing their hearing sensitivity. This effect is known as a “temporary threshold shift (TTS)“, and there are currently no studies of the phenomenon in turtles.
WHOI associate scientist Arran Mooney commented:
“It was surprising that we found noise can induce underwater hearing loss in turtles, and then it was surprising that this hearing loss was at much lower levels than was estimated, so lots of surprises all around. Also, the turtles remained pretty calm (or didn’t show a behavioral response) despite the noise being loud enough to induce temporary hearing loss.Notably, this temporary hearing loss is a normal physiological phenomenon in animals. We now see it across the board (mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles). But importantly in this case, it can be a predictor of greater, more deleterious noise impacts such as permanent hearing loss or auditory damage.”