Don’t Touch the Seahorses

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Seahorses are fascinating creatures ­— they will change colour, they occupy quite a lot of habitats, and the males carry the infants. However how does the presence of divers — particularly photographers — have an effect on these fascinating creatures?

In 2019, PhD candidate in marine ecology Maarten De Brauwer and his colleagues carried out analysis on how divers’ (and particularly photographers’) interactions have an effect on benthic fishes and particularly seahorses. They discovered that the impact of the flash whereas divers have been photographing them was no worse than the presence of the divers alone, with out flash images.

Robust flash images is a no-no

The overall consensus is that mild flash images is not any brighter than the daylight being mirrored off the seabed in shallow water. The researchers discovered no influence on the ocular and retinal anatomy created by the presence of flash images. Nor was there any change within the animals’ feeding success. Utilizing extra highly effective flashes, with a view to obtain a darkish or black background, might have a better influence on the animals, although. CITES advises divers to not use flash, as do many native legal guidelines. So, whereas it doesn't essentially have an effect on the animals, you should take care when utilizing flash images to seize a seahorse picture.

Don't contact seahorses — interval

What did, nevertheless, have an effect on the animals was how divers interacted with them. Seahorses exhibited a robust stress response once they have been bodily manipulated by photographers. Touching, shifting or manipulating animals so as to get the right picture may cause abrasions and even break elements of their physique. Whereas most scuba divers stay by the phrase ‘look however don’t contact,’ typically it's tempting to maneuver that piece of coral or shift the animal ‘only a bit’ with a purpose to get the right shot.

Different researchers studied the interactions between dive photographers and seahorses in 2018 and located that divers who used motion cameras that have been hooked up to an extension pole got here quite a bit nearer to seahorses. This shut proximity elevated the variety of occasions the photographers touched the animals and induced the animals to attempt to escape (a behavioral disruption). Repeated behavioral disruptions can negatively have an effect on seahorse habits like feeding, copy and resting.

The researchers recommend that divers (and photographers) maintain a minimal distance of 14 inches (36 cm) from seahorses to scale back stress to the animals.

Some ideas for photographing seahorses

  • Stress not solely impacts the animals’ feeding, copy and resting habits, it may additionally shorten their life span. Try and trigger them as little stress as potential.
  • Don't contact or transfer them or the flora round them to get a greater shot
  • Permit them area (no less than 14 inches/36 cm) and depart them an escape route in case they really feel threatened.
  • Take a look at their conduct. If they appear to flop over or look unwell (and even lifeless or dying), flip their again to you or swim away, it signifies that your presence is inflicting an excessive amount of stress. Depart them alone and gently again away.
  • These well-camouflaged animals are additionally social animals. This implies for those who see one, one other one is perhaps close by. Concentrate on your physique, and particularly your fins. Attempt to not disturb the underside — use frog kicks and hover slightly than utilizing scissor kicks.

Whereas flash images doesn't immediately have an effect on seahorse conduct, the presence of divers — and extra particularly touching and shifting them — might trigger heightened stress ranges within the creatures. Taking footage of them whereas doing all of your greatest to not disturb them or their surroundings is greatest, so long as native legal guidelines permit it.

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