Behavioural and pathomorphological impacts of flash photography on benthic fishes
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Millions of people take animal pictures during wildlife interactions, yet the impacts of photographer behaviour and photographic flashes on animals are poorly understood. We investigated the pathomorphological and behavioural impacts of photographer behaviour and photographic flashes on 14 benthic fish species that are important for scuba diving tourism and aquarium displays. We ran a field study to test effects of photography on fish behaviour, and two laboratory studies that tested effects of photographic flashes on seahorse behaviour, and ocular and retinal anatomy. Our study showed that effects of photographic flashes are negligible and do not have stronger impacts than those caused solely by human presence. Photographic flashes did not cause changes in gross ocular and retinal anatomy of seahorses and did not alter feeding success. Physical manipulation of animals by photographing scuba divers, however, elicited strong stress responses. This study provides important new information to help develop efficient management strategies that reduce environmental impacts of wildlife tourism.
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