Long-term cleaner fish presence affects growth of a coral reef fish

Clague, Gillian E., Cheney, Karen L., Goldizen, Anne W., McCormick, Mark I., Waldie, Peter A., and Grutter, Alexandra S. (2011) Long-term cleaner fish presence affects growth of a coral reef fish. Biology Letters, 7 (6). pp. 863-865.

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Cleaning behaviour is considered to be a classical example of mutualism. However, no studies, to our knowledge, have measured the benefits to clients in terms of growth. In the longest experimental study of its kind, over an 8 year period, cleaner fish Labroides dimidiatus were consistently removed from seven patch reefs (61–285 m2) and left undisturbed on nine control reefs, and the growth and parasite load of the damselfish Pomacentrus moluccensis determined. After 8 years, growth was reduced and parasitic copepod abundance was higher on fish from removal reefs compared with controls, but only in larger individuals. Behavioural observations revealed that P. moluccensis cleaned by L. dimidiatus were 27 per cent larger than nearby conspecifics. The selective cleaning by L. dimidiatus probably explains why only larger P. moluccensis individuals benefited from cleaning. This is the first demonstration, to our knowledge, that cleaners affect the growth rate of client individuals; a greater size for a given age should result in increased fecundity at a given time. The effect of the removal of so few small fish on the size of another fish species is unprecedented on coral reefs.

Item ID: 20239
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1744-957X
Keywords: symbiosis; cooperation; coral reef ecology; fish behaviour; Labridae; parasitism
Date Deposited: 24 Feb 2012 00:00
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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