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Sensitivity of the mussel Mytilus edulis to substrate‑borne vibration in relation to anthropogenically generated noise

Roberts, L; Cheesman, S; Breithaupt, T; Elliott, M


L Roberts

S Cheesman

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Professor Mike Elliott
Emeritus Professor of Estuarine and Coastal Sciences/ Research Professor, Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies


© 2015 Inter-Research. Many anthropogenic activities in the oceans involve direct contact with the seabed (for example pile driving), creating radiating particle motion waves. However, the consequences of these waveforms to marine organisms are largely unknown and there is little information on the ability of invertebrates to detect vibration, or indeed the acoustic component of the signal. We quantified sensitivity of the marine bivalve Mytilus edulis to substrate-borne vibration by exposure to vibration under controlled conditions. Sinusoidal excitation by tonal signals at frequencies within the range 5 to 410 Hz was applied during the tests, using the 'staircase' method of threshold determination. Thresholds were related to mussel size and to seabed vibration data produced by anthropogenic activities. Clear behavioural changes were observed in response to the vibration stimulus. Thresholds ranged from 0.06 to 0.55 m s -2 (acceleration, root mean squared), with valve closure used as the behavioural indicator of reception and response. Thresholds were shown to be within the range of vibrations measured in the vicinity of anthropogenic operations such as pile driving and blasting. The responses show that vibration is likely to impact the overall fitness of both individuals and mussel beds of M. edulis due to disruption of natural valve periodicity, which may have ecosystem and commercial implications. The observed data provide a valuable first step to understanding the impacts of such vibration upon a key coastal and estuarine invertebrate which lives near industrial and construction activity, and illustrate that the role of seabed vibration should not be underestimated when assessing the impacts of noise pollution.


Roberts, L., Cheesman, S., Breithaupt, T., & Elliott, M. (2015). Sensitivity of the mussel Mytilus edulis to substrate‑borne vibration in relation to anthropogenically generated noise. Marine ecology progress series, 538, 185-195.

Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2015
Publication Date Oct 28, 2015
Deposit Date Dec 21, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Marine ecology progress series
Print ISSN 0171-8630
Electronic ISSN 1616-1599
Publisher Inter Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 538
Pages 185-195
Keywords Substrate-borne vibration; Sensitivity threshold; Mytilus edulis; Anthropogenic noise; Seismic energy; Marine energy
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Additional Information Authors' accepted manuscript of article published in: Marine ecology progress series, 2015, v.538.


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