UH Biology» Blog Archive » Mutualism and the Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides Dimidiatus)
By Laura Vander Meiden, RJD Intern. The relationship between cleaner wrasse and reef fish has long been one of the textbook examples of. The bluestreak cleaner wrasse, Labroides dimidiatus, can be found on coral reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific. These little fish live in small groups on cleaning . Cleaner fish are fish that provide a service to other species by removing dead skin and The cleaning symbiosis is an example of mutualism, an ecological The best known cleaner fish are the cleaner wrasses of the genus Labroides found.
Copyright Waldie et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are properly credited. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Associated Data Table S1: Statistical results for fish abundance, species richness, and Simpson's diversity index analyses.
Species list of site-attached resident fishes surveyed. Species list of juvenile visitor fishes surveyed.
Species list of adult visitor fishes surveyed. Experimental reefs with number of cleaner fish present or removed.
Furthermore, mechanisms that may shift fish community structure in the presence of cleaning organisms are unclear. This is the first study to demonstrate a benefit of cleaning behaviour to client individuals, in the form of increased size, and to elucidate potential mechanisms leading to community-wide effects on the fish population. Many of the fish groups affected may also indirectly affect other reef organisms, thus further impacting the reef community.
Cleaning Crew on the Reef | Science and the Sea
The large-scale effect of the presence of the relatively small and uncommon fish, Labroides dimidiadus, on other fishes is unparalleled on coral reefs. Cleaning behaviour has been used as a classic example of mutualism and, recently, to test cooperation theory .
Surprisingly, the health benefit to clients, in terms of body size, has never been measured  nor have any mechanisms involved in effects on fish communities  been elucidated. On Atlantic and Indo-Pacific coral reefs, cleaner fishes interact with many client fish species  — . There has been considerable debate about the mutualistic nature of cleaning symbioses. Benefits to cleaners are well documented; cleaners enjoy nutritional rewards from eating ectoparasites and protection from predation .
The benefit of cleaning to clients, however, remains contentious.
Cleaning Crew on the Reef
Fish parasites can lower host growth, recruitment, and fecundity, and increase mortality . This is one of the few cases in which varying species of fish actually inhabit the same space without becoming territorial or aggressive with each other.
- Cleaner fish
- Cooperation in the cleaner fish-client mutualism
It's clear that these fish have one thing on their mind when they line up at the cleaning station: Easily distinguished by a bright blue and yellow band, the cleaner wrasse makes an effort to advertise its services by performing a dance. Likewise, when a fish wants to be "cleaned" it sends specific signals to the wrasse, such as keeping its body stationary, while spreading its fins and gills and opening its mouth.
The Cleaner Wrasse - Helping to Keep Fish Parasite Free, Belize Barrier Reef
If the wrasse picks up on the signal it will begin the cleaning process on its customer, which is usually a larger fish. Cleaning consists of the wrasse swimming over the entire body of its customer, eating parasites from the fins and gills. The wrasse will even go inside the mouth and clean between the teeth of its customer.
Interestingly enough, the wrasse is rarely injured or eaten by the other fish; the wrasse vibrates its fins while cleaning to remind its customer of its presence. Moreover, the cleaned animal will frequently defend the cleaning station and its cleaners from attack by would-be predators. Almost all marine species are actively involved in close symbiotic relationships with at least one other species in their community. The unique relationship between the cleaner wrasse and the fish it cleans at the "cleaning stations" are an important and impressive example of symbiosis.
Not only does the satisfied customer leave parasite free, but also the wrasse enjoys a protein rich meal.