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For non-human animals, making a noise of some sort is a way of communicating. However, when human-derived noise is involved, disruptions to these forms of communication and behaviour can and do occur. This is the focus of Animal Communication and Noise, the second of four volumes by numerous authors on the subject of non-human animal communication and behaviour.

There are four parts to volume 2. The first introduces signal-detection theory and the evolution of communication. The second contains eight chapters of research into acoustic signals. Subjects range from the use of sound by insects to communicate, to the effects of noise on vocal production and sound perception in birds, anurans, marine mammals and fish.

Much of the research emphasises that non-human animals rely on their noises to interact socially – for example, to announce the presence of predators (chapter 7). Thus, excessive noise in or around their habitat – including low-frequency but high-intensity noise from human activities – has to be dealt with.
In the marine environment, evidence reviewed by Tyack and Janik (chapters 9 and 10) suggests that marine mammals have altered their communication behaviour as a result of anthropogenic noise, and they explore the effects of noise on marine mammal auditory perception.

Part three of the text covers optical, electrical and chemical signalling, with chapter 11 investigating the intriguing topic of the noise effects from wind-blown plants on visual communication.

The final part, by McGregor et al, reports on the impact of anthropogenic noise on non-human animals. They state that, in evolutionary terms, human-derived noise is a recent phenomenon and that evidence of adverse effects on humans might also be relevant to conservation.

Animal Communication and Noise, although costly, is a reference work of the highest standard that will be useful for researchers, students and lecturers in a variety of disciplines, from conservation and animal behaviour to evolution and the physics of sound.

Pat Sang CBiol MRSB

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