Dr Steve Simpson
Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology and Global Change

Key publications | Publications by category | Publications by year

Key publications

Simpson SD, Purser J, Radford AN (2015). Anthropogenic noise compromises antipredator behaviour in European eels. Glob Chang Biol, 21(2), 586-593.

Anthropogenic noise compromises antipredator behaviour in European eels.

Increases in noise-generating human activities since the Industrial Revolution have changed the acoustic landscape of many terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Anthropogenic noise is now recognized as a major pollutant of international concern, and recent studies have demonstrated impacts on, for instance, hearing thresholds, communication, movement and foraging in a range of species. However, consequences for survival and reproductive success are difficult to ascertain. Using a series of laboratory-based experiments and an open-water test with the same methodology, we show that acoustic disturbance can compromise antipredator behaviour--which directly affects survival likelihood--and explore potential underlying mechanisms. Juvenile European eels (Anguilla anguilla) exposed to additional noise (playback of recordings of ships passing through harbours), rather than control conditions (playback of recordings from the same harbours without ships), performed less well in two simulated predation paradigms. Eels were 50% less likely and 25% slower to startle to an 'ambush predator' and were caught more than twice as quickly by a 'pursuit predator'. Furthermore, eels experiencing additional noise had diminished spatial performance and elevated ventilation and metabolic rates (indicators of stress) compared with control individuals. Our results suggest that acoustic disturbance could have important physiological and behavioural impacts on animals, compromising life-or-death responses.
 Abstract.  Author URL Full text
Rutterford L, Simpson SD, Jennings S, Johnson MP, Blanchard JL, Schon P-J, Sims DW, Tinker J, Genner MJ (2015). Future fish distributions constrained by depth in warming seas. Nature Climate Change. Full text
Simpson SD, Radford AN, Tickle EJ, Meekan MG, Jeffs AG (2011). Adaptive avoidance of reef noise. Plos One, 6(2).

Adaptive avoidance of reef noise.

Auditory information is widely used throughout the animal kingdom in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. Some marine species are dependent on reefs for adult survival and reproduction, and are known to use reef noise to guide orientation towards suitable habitat. Many others that forage in food-rich inshore waters would, however, benefit from avoiding the high density of predators resident on reefs, but nothing is known about whether acoustic cues are used in this context. By analysing a sample of nearly 700,000 crustaceans, caught during experimental playbacks in light traps in the Great Barrier Reef lagoon, we demonstrate an auditory capability in a broad suite of previously neglected taxa, and provide the first evidence in any marine organisms that reef noise can act as a deterrent. In contrast to the larvae of species that require reef habitat for future success, which showed an attraction to broadcasted reef noise, taxa with a pelagic or nocturnally emergent lifestyle actively avoided it. Our results suggest that a far greater range of invertebrate taxa than previously thought can respond to acoustic cues, emphasising yet further the potential negative impact of globally increasing levels of underwater anthropogenic noise.
 Abstract.  Author URL
Simpson SD, Jennings S, Johnson MP, Blanchard JL, Schon PJ, Sims DW, Genner MJ (2011). Continental shelf-wide response of a fish assemblage to rapid warming of the sea. Curr Biol, 21(18), 1565-1570.

Continental shelf-wide response of a fish assemblage to rapid warming of the sea.

Climate change affects marine biological processes from genetic to ecosystem levels [1-3]. Recent warming in the northeast Atlantic [4, 5] has caused distributional shifts in some fish species along latitudinal and depth gradients [6, 7], but such changes, as predicted by climate envelope models [8], may often be prevented because population movement requires availability of suitable habitat. We assessed the full impacts of warming on the commercially important European continental shelf fish assemblage using a data-driven Eulerian (grid-based) approach that accommodates spatial heterogeneity in ecological and environmental conditions. We analyzed local associations of species abundance and community diversity with climatic variables, assessing trends in 172 cells from records of andgt;100 million individuals sampled over 1.2 million km(2) from 1980-2008. We demonstrate responses to warming in 72% of common species, with three times more species increasing in abundance than declining, and find these trends reflected in international commercial landings. Profound reorganization of the relative abundance of species in local communities occurred despite decadal stability in the presence-absence of species. Our analysis highlights the importance of focusing on changes in species abundance in established local communities to assess the full consequences of climate change for commercial fisheries and food security.
 Abstract.  Author URL
Simpson SD, Munday PL, Wittenrich ML, Manassa R, Dixson DL, Gagliano M, Yan HY (2011). Ocean acidification erodes crucial auditory behaviour in a marine fish. Biol Lett, 7(6), 917-920.

Ocean acidification erodes crucial auditory behaviour in a marine fish.

Ocean acidification is predicted to affect marine ecosystems in many ways, including modification of fish behaviour. Previous studies have identified effects of CO(2)-enriched conditions on the sensory behaviour of fishes, including the loss of natural responses to odours resulting in ecologically deleterious decisions. Many fishes also rely on hearing for orientation, habitat selection, predator avoidance and communication. We used an auditory choice chamber to study the influence of CO(2)-enriched conditions on directional responses of juvenile clownfish (Amphiprion percula) to daytime reef noise. Rearing and test conditions were based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predictions for the twenty-first century: current-day ambient, 600, 700 and 900 µatm pCO(2). Juveniles from ambient CO(2)-conditions significantly avoided the reef noise, as expected, but this behaviour was absent in juveniles from CO(2)-enriched conditions. This study provides, to our knowledge, the first evidence that ocean acidification affects the auditory response of fishes, with potentially detrimental impacts on early survival.
 Abstract.  Author URL
Simpson SD, Meekan M, Montgomery J, McCauley R, Jeffs A (2005). Homeward sound. Science, 308(5719).

Homeward sound.

Despite spending weeks at sea as larvae, potentially scattered over many kilometers, young coral reef fish find suitable settlement habitat and in some cases return to their natal reefs. We report that some dominant families of larval reef fish use the sounds made by fish and shrimp resident on reefs to help them locate and settle on reefs and that some fish groups use specific components of the reef sound to guide their behavior. These findings could offer potential for active management of reef fisheries.
 Abstract.  Author URL

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