Behavior and blood catecholamines of captive belugas during playbacks of noise from an oil drilling platform

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Abstract

Belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) depend on sounds for communication and echolocation. To address the concerns that noise from oil platforms may have adverse effects, we examined behavioral responses of four captive belugas to playbacks of noise from SEDCO 708, a semi-submersible drilling platform. Swim patterns, social groups, and respiration/dive rates were not statistically different before and during playbacks. We assayed levels of blood catecholamines before and after playbacks as a measure of stress. Blood epinephrine and norepinephrine levels measured immediately after playbacks were not elevated. Using the parameters we selected, we could not detect any short-term behavioral or physiological effects of drilling noise playbacks on these captive belugas. However, care should be taken in extrapolating these results to the behavior of wild belugas around oil platforms.

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