Rock and Roll Actually Is Noise Pollution – to Ladybugs – According to New Biology Study
Back in 1980, AC/DC posited that "Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution" on the closing track to their legendary album Back in Black. Turns out though, the Australian outfit may have gotten it all wrong as, according to a new study at Mississippi State University, the sounds of hard rock can indeed abuse the environment - when it comes to ladybugs at least.
“I was listening to AC/DC, and I heard the song, and I thought to myself 'Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution,' that’s a testable hypothesis,” Department of Biology assistant professor Brandon Barton tells the Starkville Daily News. “The alternative hypothesis is that rock and roll is noise pollution.”
To test the hypotheses, Barton placed samples of ladybugs in a controlled environment along with sap-sucking aphids who had infested soybeans. Then he played a variety of sounds, including jackhammers, aircrafts taking off and, yes, a bit of hard rock with Metallica, Guns N' Roses and AC/DC among the selections.
"We immediately discovered that after about a day or a half day, 15 hours or so, the ones who had been exposed to the hard rock music, AC/DC, or even the city sounds, those loud kind of harsh sounds really reduced the number of aphids they consumed by a lot,” Barton says, adding that while the aphids weren't affected by the sounds, once the ladybugs were introduced to the environment, things got really interesting, especially when the music was played.
"In the one with the AC/DC blasting, the predators [ladybugs] didn’t control the aphids, and I think we ended up with something like 180 aphids per plant on average," he says. "That many aphids on one plant is enough to actually hurt the plant, so we saw a reduction in the plant biomass. The AC/DC [music] indirectly reduced soybean production."
Barton says that while the hypothesis for his paper, which was dedicated to late AC/DC guitarist Malcolm Young, hasn't been completely proven, he believes the difference between the ladybugs controlling and being unable to manage the aphids was due to an aspect of the music making it more difficult for them to find their prey.
"That noise must simulate a predator or some other disturbance in the environment, so they stop feeding and maybe spend more time watching for predators, but it could also be that the music just makes it harder to catch an aphid," Barton says, adding that hard rock doesn't seem to be a pressing issue in affecting the environment doing what it needs to do.
"I don’t think anybody’s actually concerned about rock and roll affecting soybeans. The idea is the proof of concept that noise pollution can affect soybeans. We used rock and roll, but it could be the noises from cities encroaching into agricultural landscapes, highways, tractors."
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