Sensitive aerial hearing within a noisy nesting soundscape in a deep-diving seabird, the common murre Uria aalge

Adam B Smith, Iris Fischer-McMorrow, Yann Kolbeinsson, Marianne Rasmussen, Michelle R Shero, Jim N McElwaine, Owen R Jones, T Aran Mooney

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Diving seabirds face a combination of sound exposure in marine and terrestrial environments due to increasing human encroachment on coastal ecosystems. Yet the sound-sensitivity and sensory ecology of this threatened group of animals is largely unknown, complicating effective management and conservation. Here, we characterize aspects of the acoustic ecology of the common murre Uria aalge, one of the deepest diving alcid seabirds. Electrophysiological aerial hearing thresholds were measured for 12 wild, nesting individuals and compared to conspecific vocalizations and short-term aerial soundscape dynamics of their cliff nesting habitat. Auditory responses were measured from 0.5 to 6 kHz, with a lowest mean threshold of 30 dB at 2 kHz and generally sensitive hearing from 1 to 3.5 kHz. The short-term murre nesting soundscape contained biotic sounds from con- and heterospecific avifauna; broadband sounds levels of 56-69 dB re: 20 µPa rms (0.1-10 kHz) were associated with both diel and tidal-cycle factors. Five murre vocalization types showed dominant spectral emphasis at or below the region of best hearing. Common murre hearing appears to be less sensitive than a related alcid, the Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica, but more sensitive than other non-alcid diving birds described to date, suggesting that adaptations for deep diving have not caused a loss of the species’ hearing ability above water. Overall, frequencies of common murre hearing and vocalization overlap with many anthropogenic noise sources, indicating that the species is susceptible to disturbance from a range of noise types.
TidsskriftMarine Ecology Progress Series
Sider (fra-til)87-104
StatusUdgivet - 13. jul. 2023


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