The effect of flash photography on the feeding, reemergence time, and time spent in refuge of Bicolor Damselfish, Stegastes partitus

Diving on reefs is a great means for tourism around the world. The impacts of divers differ based on experience and if there is something of high interest to observe. Recreational divers enjoy taking pictures or videos to capture the organisms observed. One organism of great abundance on Bonaire’s reefs is the bicolor damselfish, Stegastes partitus. They are a planktivorous reef fish that feeds on plankton in the water column. An increase in flash photography, due to the increase in diving, may affect essential behaviors, such as feeding and predator avoidance. The bite rate for S. partitus will decrease under the influence of a stimulus, such as light. The S. partitus individual will have the same time in refuge and reemergence times as those affected by a predator. Individuals were observed under three treatment groups: hand (artificial predator), light, and control. For each 10- minute observation period, the bite rate, reemergence time, and time in refuge was recorded. The treatment groups had no effect on the time spent in refuge of bicolor damselfish. The results did have an effect on the bite rate, as well as, show that the presence of a current could affect the reemergence time, depending on the treatment group. This study provided evidence that flash photography can have some effects on fish behavior. Because this topic has not been observed in great detail, further studies on this topic should be conducted.

This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science XVIII (Fall 2015)19: 34-39 from CIEE Bonaire.

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