Cleaner Wrasse Do Wonders For Sick Seafish
Seafish play a vital role in keeping coral reefs clean and healthy. But when the amazing creatures are plagued by parasites, the fish lose the ability to think and learn, according to the study headed by Canadian biologist.
According to Professor Sandra Binning of of Université de Montréal’s Department of Biological Sciences, the author of the study, parasites make the seafish sick and can hamper the marine creatures to think.
The good news is, staying clean is crucial for the seafish to stay smart. Thanks to the help of cleaning organisms for their services! The presence of blue-streaked “cleaner wrasse,” a common aquarium fish that eats harmful parasites off their “clients,” does wonders for the reef fish. How?
Sandra Binning and her team found that blue-streaked cleaner wrasse make sick seafish get well again by removing parasites off them.
According to Dr. Binning, “cleaner wrasse act like the vets of the sea. Clients visit cleaners to get their parasites removed, and this helps boost their ability to think and solve the test.”
To probe the important role of both parasites and cleaning organisms in the decision-making abilities of reef fish, the researchers divided the seafish into two groups; one with access to cleaner wrasse and the other with the absence of cleaning organisms.
“We collected wild damselfish with or without access to cleaner wrasse and tested their ability to solve a feeding test in the lab.” Binning recalled. “We then compared their performance to fish that we infected with parasites experimentally.”
Here are the results!
The researchers discovered that infection with parasites, especially in high numbers, affects the ability of fish to learn.
The researchers concluded that access to cleaning services can dramatically improve a fish’s performance in a learning test.
Aside from that, interactions with cleaner wrasse are also known to reduce client stress levels and increase local recruitment of coral reef fishes.
The Cleaner Wrasse Are Under Threat
The study put into spotlight the importance of sea cleaners. However, the researchers are worried about the threats to these cleaners especially as the creatures play such a vital role in maintaining healthy reef communities.
The cleaner wrasse are among the top marine fishes caught for the aquarium industry, due to their colourful patterns and charismatic behaviour.
“It’s important that we understand the impacts of reduced access to cleaners on client fishes,” said Binning. “Cleaners may not be the largest or most abundant fish on the reef, but they affect the well-being of thousands of their clients. This needs to be taken into consideration when setting collection limits and managing marine parks.”