“Boo! Did we scare you?”: behavioral responses of reef-associated fish, prawn gobies (Amblyeleotris steinitzi and Amblyeleotris sungami) to anthropogenic diver disturbance
Coral reef communities are susceptible to anthropogenic disturbance by visitors, such as SCUBA divers. Divers can also have an effect on the behavior of reef fish, which can lead to changes in activities or habituation. This effect was examined by focusing on two species of prawn gobies, Amblyeleotris steinitzi and A. sungami, at sites in Eilat, Israel. Gobies at both undived and heavily dived sites were disturbed and the time taken for re-emergence after disappearing (latency period) was measured. The flight initiation distances (FID), the distance at which the fish fled from an approaching threat, was also measured. It was hypothesized that reactions to disturbances would be less for the gobies accustomed to diver disturbance. Results showed that in anthropogenically disturbed areas, gobies had shorter latency periods than in undisturbed areas. FID were also significantly shorter. One of the undived sites, a steep gravel slope that experiences natural disturbance in the form of rolling gravel, showed the same trend of a short average latency period. Gobies at anthropogenically disturbed sites adapted their behavior to diver disturbance.
We thank the staff of the IUI for technical support and especially Dor Shefy, Dr. Gil Koplovitz, and Tal Aruety. Thanks are also extended to Dr Jenny Tynyakov for commenting on this manuscript. Comments by four anonymous reviewers greatly improved this paper. This study was partly supported by the Schechter-Schwab Charitable Fund and by a grant from the Schulich Ocean Studies Initiative. Meghan Valerio was supported by fellowships from Ben Gurion University of the Negev Eilat Campus, and the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat. We also thank the reviewers for their valuable time used in reviewing this paper. All field experiments were performed in accordance with Israeli Law and guidance of the Israeli Nature Protection Authority.
Compliance with ethical standards
Human and animal rights statement
This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors, nor were experiments performed on captive animals. All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in the study involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of Israeli law regarding maintaining animal welfare in research.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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