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Animals need their senses to decide where to forage, whom to mate with or when to hide from predators. Such decision-making requires extracting information from environmental signals and cues, but this process is often hampered by environmental noise. I want to understand how noise affects animals that use vibrations as a mode of communication. Vibrational communication is among the oldest forms of communication, occurring in over 230,000 arthropod species. Nonetheless, it is probably the most poorly studied mode of communication. Vibrational signals are used for a wide variety of functions, such as mate attraction, resource defense, or parent-offspring communication. Furthermore, many species rely on vibrational cues to detect approaching predators or to locate foraging prey. For example, when caterpillars eat, their chewing produces vibrations, which can be used by parasitoids to locate them. Alternatively, the vibrations caused by a parasitoids’ walking on a leaf can be used as a warning cue for caterpillars to hide. These functions can however be severely affected by vibrational noise, coming from biotic and abiotic sources, like wind and fast flowing rivers or train tracks and highways.
Chewing of Pieris brassicae on Brassica oleracea recorded wit a Doppler-laser vibrometer (link opens a movie on YouTube).
Noise levels are rapidly increasing with more cars, highways, train tracks and in general with more developing urban areas. So, what happens to animals, which rely on a vibrational mode of communication when they are confronted with increasing noise levels? Is their ability to find a mate or a prey, or to avoid a predator hampered by this noise? How does vibrational noise affect species interactions? What role does noise play in shaping ecological community structure?
Impact of noise on vibrational communication
I study how noise (natural and/or anthropogenic) affects the perception and use of vibrational cues and signals in arthropods. In my project I plan to use a laser-Doppler vibrometer to first quantify noise levels along highways or train tracks, but also along rivers, noisy streams or waterfalls. Then, based on field recordings we can compare noise transmission patterns on different species of plants, and parts of plants. This will be complemented with lab studies where I will look into which plant traits are important in the transmission of noise, signals and cues. Another aspect of my research focuses on the ecological interactions that are driven by these vibrational signals and cues (i.e. predator-prey interactions, mating, finding food or conspecifics). How are these ecological interactions affected by noise in light of the differences in transmission properties?
Other people involved in this project: Dr. W.H. Halfwerk and Prof. Dr. J. Ellers
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Sep 2013 → 31 Aug 2015
2 Feb 2009 → 31 Jan 2012
Unexpected dietary preferences of Eurasian Spoonbills in the Dutch Wadden Sea: spoonbills mainly feed on small fish not shrimpJouta, J., de Goeij, P., Lok, T., Velilla, E., Camphuysen, C. J., Leopold, M., van der Veer, H. W., Olff, H., Overdijk, O. & Piersma, T., 1 Jul 2018, In : Journal of Ornithology. 159, 3, p. 839-849 11 p.
Research output: Contribution to Journal › Article › Academic › peer-review