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Impact of motorboats on fish embryos depends on engine type


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Impact of motorboats on fish embryos depends on engine type
Date Record Created
Date Record Modified
Date Coverage
2018-11-01 to 2018-12-30
Time Period
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Geospatial Location
  • Lizard Island, northern Great Barrier Reef, Australia (14°41′S, 145°27′E)
  1. Type: full

    Change in heart rate of Amblyglyphidodon curacao embryos from pre- treatment conditions (ambient) to treatment conditions (ambient, 2-stroke engine, or 4-stroke engine). Both 2-stroke and 4-stroke treatments involved a boat driving at 0–35 km/h at 10–200 m from embryos. 

    The full methodology is available in the Open Access publication from the Related Publications link below.

    Abstract [Related Publication]: Human generated noise is changing the natural underwater soundscapes worldwide. The most pervasive sources of underwater anthropogenic noise are motorboats, which have been found to negatively affect several aspects of fish biology. However, few studies have examined the effects of noise on early life stages, especially the embryonic stage, despite embryo health being critical to larval survival and recruitment. Here, we used a novel setup to monitor heart rates of embryos from the staghorn damselfish (Amblyglyphidodon curacao) in shallow reef conditions, allowing us to examine the effects of in situ boat noise in context with real-world exposure. We found that the heart rate of embryos increased in the presence of boat noise, which can be associated with the stress response. Additionally, we found 2-stroke outboard-powered boats had more than twice the effect on embryo heart rates than did 4-stroke powered boats, showing an increase in mean individual heart rate of 1.9% and 4.6%, respectively. To our knowledge this is the first evidence suggesting boat noise elicits a stress response in fish embryo and highlights the need to explore the ecological ramifications of boat noise stress during the embryo stage. Also, knowing the response of marine organisms caused by the sound emissions of particular engine types provides an important tool for reef managers to mitigate noise pollution.

Related Publications
  1. Jain-Schlaepfer, Sofia, Fakan, Eric, Rummer, Jodie L., Simpson, Stephen D., and McCormick, Mark I. (2018) Impact of motorboats on fish embryos depends on engine type. Conservation Physiology, 6(1)
    Open Access
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  1. Associated with: Miss Sofia Jain-Schlaepfer , , College of Science & Engineering
  2. Associated with: Prof Mark McCormick , , ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Marine Biology & Aquaculture
  3. Associated with: Dr Jodie Rummer , , ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Primary Contact
Miss Sofia Jain-Schlaepfer,
(no information)
  1. Steve Simpson, University of Exeter
Fields of Research
  1. 069902 - Global Change Biology (069902)
Socio-Economic Objective
  1. 960903 - Coastal and Estuarine Water Management (960903)
  1. pollution
  2. anthropogenic noise
  3. stress
  4. fishes
  5. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Research Activity
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Research Themes
Tropical Ecosystems, Conservation and Climate Change
CC BY-NC 4.0: Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 International
License - Other
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Access Rights/Conditions
Open access. If the data is not freely accessible via the link provided, please contact the nominated data manager or for assistance.
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Data Location
Online Locations
  1. embryo data for biology letters.csv (Data File, Public)
Stored At
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Jain-Schlaepfer, S.; McCormick, M.; Rummer, J. (2018). Impact of motorboats on fish embryos depends on engine type. James Cook University. (dataset).
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):