Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Paul M. Forlano

Committee Members

Allyson Friedman

Christopher Braun

Jennifer Basil

Rodney Rountree

Subject Categories

Behavior and Ethology | Biology


vocal toadfish, anthropogenic noise, bioacoustics, Hudson River, catecholamines


Intense anthropogenic noise can induce stress, behavioral changes, and even hearing loss in aquatic animals. However, there are few studies that have demonstrated how ecologically relevant noise affects aquatic life, and even fewer studies on the effect of noise on animals that require sound for reproduction. The oyster toadfish (Opsanus tau) is an excellent animal model to examine the effects of anthropogenic noise on behavior and neurochemistry since they use a reproductive call to find mates and live near urban areas like New York City. Despite living alongside the most populous city in the United States, these vocal fish are still able to find mates and reproduce successfully. In this dissertation, I will examine the effect of anthropogenic (vessel) noise on both vocal behavior in the Hudson River alongside lower Manhattan, and changes in neurochemistry, specifically in the synthesis of dopamine in the auditory system.

In Chapter 2 we assessed the potential effects of anthropogenic noise on the calling behavior of oyster toadfish in the Hudson River using passive acoustic monitoring. We measured boat activity within the Hudson River system that passes a known oyster toadfish breeding site, Pier 40. Additionally, we assessed calling behavior and noise over the course of three 24-hr days at Pier 40 and compared these results to another, potentially quieter location, Eel Pond, Woods Hole, MA. In Chapter 3 we examined the effect of exposure to intense noise on dopamine synthesis and release in the central and peripheral auditory system of oyster toadfish. Using a playback model, we exposed oyster toadfish to either ambient conditions or intense ship noise and assessed changes in stress and dopamine synthesis release within the efferent and auditory system as a result of exposure. Finally, Chapter 4 is a review that examines the role of the auditory efferent system, neurons that project from the brain to the ear, and their proposed function to protect the inner ear from damage. Specifically, we examine the role of neurotransmitters, like dopamine, within the efferent system that may work as a modulator to protect the ear and work as a filter to benefit processing of socially salient signals. Taken together, this work suggests that oyster toadfish are an ideal model species and may have acclimated, both behaviorally and neurochemically, to living in noise-rich environments.

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