Subconscious biases in coral reef fish studies

Bellwood, David R., Hemingson, Christopher R., and Tebbett, Sterling B. (2020) Subconscious biases in coral reef fish studies. BioScience, 70 (7). pp. 621-627.

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In complex, diverse ecosystems, one is faced with an exceptionally challenging decision: which species to examine first and why? This raises the question: Is there evidence of subconscious biases in study species selection? Likewise, is there evidence of this bias in selecting methods, locations, and times? We addressed these questions by surveying the literature on the most diverse group of vertebrates (fishes) in an iconic high-diversity ecosystem (coral reefs). The evidence suggests that we select study species that are predominantly yellow. Reef fish studies also selectively examine fishes that are behaviorally bold and in warm, calm, attractive locations. Our findings call for a reevaluation of study species selection and methodological approaches, recognizing the potential for subconscious biases to drive selection for species that are attractive rather than important and for methods that give only a partial view of ecosystems. Given the challenges faced by high-diversity ecosystems, we may need to question our decision-making processes.

Item ID: 66790
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1525-3244
Keywords: Biodiversity, Coral reef, Fish, Function, Subconscious bias
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC CE140100020, ARC FL190100062
Research Data:
Date Deposited: 10 May 2021 01:19
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 25%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 25%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3199 Other biological sciences > 319999 Other biological sciences not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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