The effects of common anaesthetics on the hue, saturation and brightness measurements of the poeciliid fish Girardinus metallicus were investigated in two experiments. For both experiments the coloration of four body regions was measured from digital images of the same males obtained under three conditions: (1) control (in a water-filled chamber); (2) anaesthetised with MS-222; and (3) anaesthetised with eugenol (clove oil). In experiment 1 anaesthetised fish were photographed out of water. In experiment 2 all photographs were taken in a water-filled chamber. Anaesthetics altered coloration in both experiments. In the more methodologically consistent experiment 2 we found significantly different hue, increased saturation and decreased brightness in anaesthetic v. control conditions, consistent with darkening caused by the anaesthetics. The body regions differed in coloration consistent with countershading but did not differentially change in response to anaesthesia. These findings suggest that photographing fish in a water-filled chamber without anaesthetic is preferable for obtaining digital images for colour analysis and that multiple body regions of fish should be measured when assessing coloration patterns meaningful in behavioural contexts, to account for the gradients caused by countershading. We are encouraged that some researchers employ such methods already and caution against using anaesthetics except when absolutely necessary for immobilisation.

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Journal of Fish Biology
Department of Biology

Wojan, E.M. (Erin M.), Carreiro, N.C. (Nalana C.), Clendenen, D.A. (David A.), Neldner, H.M. (Heather M.), Castillo, C. (Crystal), Bertram, S.M, & Kolluru, G.R. (Gita R.). (2019). The effects of commonly used anaesthetics on colour measurements across body regions in the poeciliid fish, Girardinus metallicus. Journal of Fish Biology. doi:10.1111/jfb.14138