How boat noise affects an ecologically crucial behaviour: the case of territoriality in Gobius cruentatus (Gobiidae)
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Gobius cruentatus emit sounds during agonistic interactions. In order to evaluate the effect of boat noise exposure on G. cruentatus territorial behaviour, we played a field-recorded diesel engine boat noise during aggressive encounters between an intruder and a resident fish in a laboratory-controlled tank. We tested two factors: role (resident vs. intruder) and condition (noisy vs. silent); the test animals underwent all the treatments in a round-robin design. Agonistic behavior of the residents was modified by boat noise: during the playback residents were more submissive and won less encounters than in the control (silent) condition. We suggest that sound production is an effective tool for territorial defense, since the impairment of acoustic communication due to the recreational boat noise diminished the ability of the resident to maintain its territory.