324 — Testing the AC/DC hypothesis: Rock and roll is noise pollution and weakens a trophic cascade

Barton et al (10.1002/ece3.4273)

Read on 10 July 2018
#music  #anthropology  #environment  #music  #sound  #ladybug  #aphid  #predation  #food-web  #ecology  #feeding 

AC/DC et al (1981) said “rock and doll ain’t noise pollution.”. But their methods weren’t open-access, so no one has been able to reproduce those results.


Generally speaking, noise-pollution research looks at the impact of anthropogenic noise on vertebrates, and in particular focuses on vertebrates whose mating behavior involves sound (such as birdsong). It’s pretty obvious that if a bird can’t hear another bird over the sound of construction, those two birds will not be making birdbabies.

But Barton et al looked at the effect of sound on invertebrates — and furthermore, whereas most prior research has looked at direct “infraspecific” effects of noise pollution (the effects noise has on one species or one behavior), this research looks at the impact of anthropogenic sound on an ecosystem.

Aphids eat soy plants, which makes the soy plants unhappy. And ladybugs (Coccinellidae) eat the aphids, which makes the aphids unhappy (I assume) but makes the soy plants happy (I assume). How is this three-tier trophic web affected by tunes?

Barton et al set two plant growth chambers up: One had an iPhone blasting 100dBA music for 14 days and the other did not. Both had equal numbers of aphids and ladybugs. (For reference, 100dBA is around the same volume as a lawnmower or loud truck.)

The playlists included:

  • AC/DC’s Back in Black
  • Rock
  • Classic country
  • British folk-punk
  • City sounds

Then they waited.

At the end of the study, they found that the AC/DC, city sounds, and rock music chambers had noticeably more aphids, and the plant matter was significantly decreased, which means that the noise lowered the rate of predations by the ladybugs and increased the amount of plant-damage done by the aphids.

In short, the authors reject the AC/DC hypothesis: Rock and roll IS noise pollution.

I do not envy whichever author had to figure out how to get the AC/DC logo typeset correctly into LaTeX.