Does underwater flash photography affect the behaviour, movement and site persistence of seahorses?

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Journal Article
Journal of Fish Biology, 2013, 83 (5), pp. 1344 - 1353
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The effect of flash photography on seahorse species has never been tested. An experiment was established to test the effect of flash photography and the handling of Hippocampus whitei, a medium-sized seahorse species endemic to Australia, on their behavioural responses, movements and site persistence. A total of 24 H. whitei were utilized in the experiment with eight in each of the three treatments (flash photography, handling and control). The effect of underwater flash photography on H. whitei movements was not significant; however, the effect of handling H. whitei to take a photograph had a significant effect on their short-term behavioural responses to the photographer. Kaplan-Meier log-rank test revealed that there was no significant difference in site persistence of H. whitei from each of the three treatments and that flash photography had no long-term effects on their site persistence. It is concluded that the use of flash photography by divers is a safe and viable technique with H. whitei, particularly if photographs can be used for individual identification purposes. © 2013 The Fisheries Society of the British Isles.
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