From DNA to ecological performance: Effects of anthropogenic noise on a reef-building mussel

Matthew A. Wale, Robert A. Briers, Mark G. J. Hartl, David Bryson, Karen Diele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)
116 Downloads (Pure)


Responses of marine invertebrates to anthropogenic noise are insufficiently known, impeding our understanding of ecosystemic impacts of noise and the development of mitigation strategies. We show that the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, is negatively affected by ship-noise playbacks across different levels of biological organization. We take a novel mechanistic multi-method approach testing and employing established ecotoxicological techniques (i.e. Comet Assay and oxidative stress tests) in combination with behavioral and physiological biomarkers. We evidence, for the first time in marine species, noise-induced changes in DNA integrity (six-fold higher DNA single strand-breaks in haemocytes and gill epithelial cells) and oxidative stress (68% increased TBARS in gill cells). We further identify physiological and behavioral changes (12% reduced oxygen consumption, 60% increase in valve gape, 84% reduced filtration rate) in noise-exposed mussels. By employing established ecotoxicological techniques we highlight impacts not only on the organismal level, but also on ecological performance. When investigating species that produce little visually obvious responses to anthropogenic noise, the above mentioned endpoints are key to revealing sublethal effects of noise and thus enable a better understanding of how this emerging, but often overlooked stressor, affects animals without complex behaviors. Our integrated approach to noise research can be used as a model for other invertebrate species and faunal groups, and inform the development of effective methods for assessing and monitoring noise impacts. Given the observed negative effects, noise should be considered a potential confounding factor in studies involving other stressors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-132
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date24 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Algal clearance
  • DNA damage
  • Ecological performance
  • Marine
  • Mytilus edulis
  • Oxidative stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'From DNA to ecological performance: Effects of anthropogenic noise on a reef-building mussel'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this