January 8, 2018, Florida Museum of Natural History
Birds exposed to the persistent noise of natural gas compressors show symptoms remarkably similar to those in humans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, new research shows.
In a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that adults and nestlings of three species showed multiple signs of chronic stress caused by noise pollution, including skewed stress hormone levels, possibly due to increased anxiety, distraction and hypervigilance.
The study is the first to test the relationships between noise, stress hormones and fitness in animals that breed in natural areas with unrelenting, human-made noise.
Constant noise could be acting as an "acoustic blanket," muffling the audio cues birds rely on to detect predators, competitors and their own species, said study co-author Rob Guralnick, associate curator of biodiversity informatics at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Unable to discern whether their environment is safe, mother birds must choose between staying on guard at the nest and finding food for their young.