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March 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 34, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Can a Fish Tell If a Scuba Diver Is Armed?

from the March, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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That's what Valerio Sbragaglia, an ecologist at the Berlin Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology, and recreational spearfisher wanted to find out. He chased more than 1,300 fish off the coasts of France and Spain between May and October 2016, sometimes carrying a speargun and sometimes not. By measuring their flight initiation distance (FID), Sbragaglia discovered that fish flee from speargun-wielding divers at a much greater distance than from those without.

The ecologist and his colleagues came up with two possible explanations: Either spearfishers had killed the boldest fish, leaving only their more skittish counterparts, or the fish most frequently targeted have learned to recognize a diver bearing a weapon....

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