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Old January 15th, 2014, 06:00 AM   #1
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Underwater recording of animal behaviour

Hello to all the DVINFO subscribers,

my name is Nuno and I am a researcher, working on animal ecology and behaviour. I'm currently working on a research project dealing with climate change and evolution. I recently finished describing the mating system in a small pipefish that inhabits the rocky intertidal areas of Atlantic Europe. This fish migrates to the intertidal to breed and I located a few spots where females aggregate and pass their eggs to the males (males get pregnant, which is rather cool). Now, my problem which stemmed my registry on this forum:
- I would like to document the mating behavior of this very small pipefish in the breeding areas. This occurs in the intertidal, where the hydrodynamic conditions are harsh, and beneath boulders (where space is limited). I was thinking that I would need a small camera (due to the limited space) that I could fix in the substratum. Also, this camera would have to be waterproof, have the ability to record in extremely low light conditions (IR?), and take pictures with regular intervals during a time period of several hours. I would then grab the camera in the next low tide and repeat the process until enough data is available.
Any suggestions? Collaborations would be most welcome.
Thanks for your help,

Nuno
(if you want to see some data on the subject, you can loo at some of the already published work on my homepage www.fc.up.pt/pessoas/nmonteir)
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Old January 15th, 2014, 12:21 PM   #2
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Re: Underwater recording of animal behaviour

Hi Nuno,

What about a GoPro? It is small and comes standard with a underwater house. It has a menu option for taking a picture with intervals between 0.5 and 60 seconds. Maybe it's not light sensitive enough, but you can give it a try. There is also a company in the US that sells IR-converted Gopro's: Ragecams. Or you buy a Gopro and get it converted into an IR-camera by a specialized company in Europe. The big challenge may then be to get a small waterproof IR-light on location as well.

Interesting subject by the way!
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Old January 16th, 2014, 05:12 AM   #3
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Re: Underwater recording of animal behaviour

Hi Cees,

thanks for the suggestion, which I think is nice. I already considered a GOPro but 1) the price tag 2) the missing IR capabilities (it would need modifications which would increase the price tag. It would also need some IR lights coupled, with autonomous battery) and 3) dimensions made me think that there might be other more suitable solutions. The spaces beneath the boulders are small and the camera should ideally be relatively small (at least the height - maybe somewhere between 3-4 cm but this is just a guide).
Looking forward for more suggestions as they are all welcome. I'm confident that your knowledge on equipment will be valuable.
Thanks for your collaboration,

Nuno
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Old January 16th, 2014, 07:39 AM   #4
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Re: Underwater recording of animal behaviour

Hi Nuno,
It sounds like a very challenging project to say the least but I am not too sure that I understand what you are hoping to record. Is it the entire courting/mating sequence you are after or are you just trying to collect data on when the behaviour occurs or what? Do you just want single frames taken at regular intervals or short sequences taken at regular intervals.

A GoPro sounds like a good start and there are descriptions available of how to remove the standard lens and replace it with one without the IR cut coating that you would need if you plan to use IR. Alternatively as Cees suggests RageCams could do the work for you.

However if there is not enough working space for a GoPro there are several other ways of accessing small spaces. One possibility is an ‘inspection camera’ these consist of a very small camera on the end of a semi-flexible cable. The camera head can be poked into pipes or cavities. There are also ‘borescopes’ that consist of a rigid metal tube containing a series of relay lenses that carry the image from one end of this tube to the other. ‘Endoscopes’ are used for medical procedures and use a bundle of optical fibres to convey the image. The advantage of the fibres is that they are flexible.
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Old January 16th, 2014, 11:06 AM   #5
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Re: Underwater recording of animal behaviour

Thanks for the info. Again, greatly appreciated.
I have a borescope but it is unusable during the high tide, when activity occurs. During low tide, pipefish are more or less immobile as water is scarce (sometimes, they remain out of water during a full low tide, given that they are protected from dissection). To tell you the truth, these pipefish are mostly immobile during most of the time. They are not the most fun fish to watch as a hobby :)
I gathered a quite robust set of genetic data from these fish (from epithelial cells present in the body mucous) which allowed me to do a kinship analysis and establish who are the mothers of the eggs that the males carry. Surprisingly, just a reduced number of females seems to sire the broods. These are the most sexy females in the neighbourhood (the ones with the highest amounts of facial pigmentation). Also, these females occupy a very specific location within the intertidal. I need to gather evidence that this place is not only where they are when I sample (during the low tide) but also where they meet the guys and place their egg batches. So, video would be nice (but probably impracticable to acquire during 8 hours - the time suitable between two ebb tides) but regularly spaced photographs would do the trick.
Appreciate your interest,

Nuno
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Old January 16th, 2014, 06:45 PM   #6
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Re: Underwater recording of animal behaviour

Hi Nuno,

Tell me if I have got this right? You have established that the females with the most conspicuous facial markings are producing the most offspring and you want to find out how they achieve this? If you can get enough pictorial evidence you might be able to show that females with the well-developed facial markings are more promiscuous and/or more attractive to the males? Another possibility is that all the females mate but those with less conspicuous facial markings do not produce as many
successful offspring.

I am puzzled as to why you want to place your camera under rocks. If the facial markings are important in mate selection I would have guessed that mating would take place where the participants can see each other and so display their best features to advantage i.e. in more open water. I would have thought that the rocks would provide protection from desiccation at low tide.

As an aside a study of the Australian Blue Fairy Wren (Malurus cyaneus) colonies shows that most matings are performed by relatively few males. The successful males are able to develop their colourful breeding plumage earlier in the season and keep it for longer. It is suggested that these males have better immune systems and are therefore healthier leaving more resources to put into fancy plumage.
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Old January 17th, 2014, 05:11 AM   #7
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Re: Underwater recording of animal behaviour

Dear Alaistar,

I didn't want to get too technical and discuss the mechanistic aspects of secondary sexual characters. There are reasons, linked to the specific biology of the species, which makes me want to get some observations of what is happening beneath boulders. Some of those reasons are linked to the distribution of the fish on the mating arenas, some derive from specific aspects of this species' courtship and mating ritual, and others deal with the periodic patterns of activity (some of these aspects can be found in my publication list in my homepage www.fc.up.pt/pessoas/nmonteir; others are in preparation as we speak). The decision to try and get some observations of what is going on beneath the boulders was not taken lightly (I work with these fish for more than a decade). Your questions are, nevertheless, valid and interesting, don't get me wrong (we can discuss them by mail, if you are interested. My mail is also in my homepage).
I have lots of evidence that males get their eggs at specific locations (where sexy females are), now I want to add some direct evidence of egg transference in those exact locations. How can I do it?
Cheers,
Nuno
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Old January 17th, 2014, 09:58 AM   #8
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Re: Underwater recording of animal behaviour

Hello Nuno. This is an interesting project. How deep is the water at high tide and how far off shore are your specific locations? You might be able to use an inexpensive USB inspection camera with a long lead connected to a laptop computer on shore or in a small tethered boat. It might be better to monitor the video feed and only record when needed rather than record for 10-12 hours because of the file sizes. Here are a couple of examples:

US SHIP USB Endoscope Borescope Inspection 4LED Waterproof 10M 33 Feet Camera | eBay

4 LED USB Black 20M Waterproof Borescope Endoscope Inspection Snake Tube Camera - USD $ 49.99

Note, these are just examples. I am not necessarily recommending these vendors. There are many of these kind of cameras available- do a search. Some have quite long cables.

Be sure to come back and let us know what solution you come up with and, please, be sure to provide a link to any footage you eventually get. Boa sorte!
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Old January 18th, 2014, 07:22 AM   #9
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Re: Underwater recording of animal behaviour

Hi Nuno,

This maybe of interest - my computer responded with a ‘not found’ for your reference.

Another question – how much image detail do you need from under the boulders to be useful?
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Old January 20th, 2014, 05:00 AM   #10
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Re: Underwater recording of animal behaviour

Dear Alaistar,

thanks for the info on the link. There is an extra ";" embedded at the end of the link.

www.fc.up.pt/pessoas/nmonteir

The image quality does not have to be too great. As long as you can see a fish nearby...
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Old January 21st, 2014, 01:49 PM   #11
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Re: Underwater recording of animal behaviour

Hi Numo

I think I got a solution for you...
I got a surveillance camera with a 60 meter cable. The cable is not the original one; it has been change (original the cable is about 20 meter). The camera is then connected to a computer or camera (or another recording device) with a Video in RCA connection. That camera I got is not HD so I don’t use it anymore, but for this type of job I think it would work.
Any way… My suggestion is that you look for an outdoor surveillance camera that is water proof (my is to 20 meter) and most of them got IR and IR lights. You can then connect this to any type of recording or even a computer connected to the internet and you can sit in your sofa at home and study your pipefish… I love pipefish… they are the reason that I got in to videographing.


cheers
Markus
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Old January 21st, 2014, 03:39 PM   #12
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Re: Underwater recording of animal behaviour

If the cameras that you look at are too big I suggest you to build you on “cave” for the pipefish, with the camera inside a rock. You can also build in the lights. Then you can move your camera rock around to different locations and you will always have “The perfect place” for your pipefish…
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Old January 21st, 2014, 11:33 PM   #13
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Re: Underwater recording of animal behaviour

Thanks Nuno, that made a difference, I can now open your reference and I have read some of your papers. I assume your pipefish is Nerophis lumbriciformis

If it was my project I would be trying to squeeze a GoPro into a smaller housing so that I could make use of its ability for stills and time lapse. One shot every 2 seconds would speed up your viewing time by a factor of 50 without missing much of what is going on.

Have you considered a ‘bullet’ or a ‘lipstick camera?’ There are waterproof bullet cameras such as the DogCam Bullet HD with built in recording ability and diameters of 30 mm or so. Another is the Sport-Cam Helmet Camera. Unlike ‘inspection’ cameras they do not provide any illumination which is probably a good thing as built-in lights are perfectly positioned to illuminate any particulate matter in the water column to the detriment of the image. If lighting is required a separate source away from the camera’s optic axis would have to be provided. If the illumination is to be infrared any IR cut filters would have to be removed as for the GoPro. Another point to consider when using infrared is that any pigments in the subject might absorb or reflect IR differently from visible light and so cause changes in appearance of your subject.
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Old January 28th, 2014, 05:00 AM   #14
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Re: Underwater recording of animal behaviour

Thanks to all who posted suggestions. Much appreciated.

Markus Nord, your images are wonderful and your suggestions are spot on! Alastair Traill, thanks for taking the time to look at my past work and provide valuable hints.

The Atlantic, during the last few months, has been unwilling to cooperate, but I'll try to set something up in the near future.
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Old February 4th, 2014, 11:26 AM   #15
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Re: Underwater recording of animal behaviour

Not sure if anybody is interested, but here is a picture of a female Nerophis lumbriciformis head. They are quite beautiful!

http://www.fc.up.pt/pessoas/nmonteir/female.jpg
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