4. Criteria for Behavioral Disturbance

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Behavioral reactions to acoustic exposure are generally more variable, context-dependent, and less predictable than effects of noise exposure on hearing or physiology. Animals detecting one kind of signal may simply orient to hear it, whereas they might panic and flee for many hours upon hearing a different sound, potentially even one that is quieter, but with some particular significance to the animal. The conservation of cochlear properties across mammals justifies judicious application of auditory data from terrestrial mammals where data on marine mammals are missing. However, the context-specificity of behavioral responses in animals generally makes extrapolation of behavioral data inappropriate. Assessing the severity of behavioral disturbance must consequently rely more on empirical studies with carefully controlled acoustic, contextual, and response variables than on extrapolations based on shared phylogeny or morphology.

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