Slides: Manta tourism (3) - Maldives Conservation Portal

Tourism and Manta rays
Part 3: Fish cleaners and cleaning stations
By Dr. Anne-Marie Kitchen Wheeler
Project Founder
Manta Ecology Project
Fish Cleaning Behaviour
Cleaning behaviour where
one or a number of animals
groom a client is most
common and widespread in
reef fishes (Losey 1972), and
has been widely researched
in fish since Feder (1966).
Cleaners are defined as reef
fish or crustaceans involved
in the mutualistic
relationship of parasite
removal and wound
cleaning of the client fish.
The cleaner may remove
ectoparasites, bacteria,
mucus, diseased and injured
tissue and unwanted food
particles from the client
(Feder 1966).
Fish are cleaned many times
each day (Grutter 1995)
The interactions usually occur in a defined area or
territory, commonly referred to as a ‘station’
(Gooding 1964; Feder 1966; Youngbluth 1968).
A cleaning station is a defined area of cleaner fish,
although groups of conspecific cleaners may form large
aggregations which are not fixed and move around a
section of reef creating a movable cleaning station.
Client fish visit the station in anticipation of beingcleaned by the cleaner fish. The association between
cleaners and clients is widely viewed as obligate, coevolved and mutualistic (Bshary and Côté 2008).
Manta rays, sharks,
jacks and tunas also
visit cleaning stations.
Clients encounter
different cleaners in
different parts of the
Many different fish
act as cleaners.
Thalassoma Amblycephalum
Blunthead wrasse
Labroides dimidiatus
Bluestreak cleaner wrasse
Labroides bicolor
Bicolor wrasse
Thalassoma lunare
Moon wrasse
False cleaners
look like cleaner
wrasse and use
deceit to attack
fish including
How to count cleaners!
The easiest way to count
cleaners is to process
photos identifying
different species with
different colours (red:
blunthead, yellow: moon).
Up to 111 cleaners have
been counted on a manta.
Types of cleaning station
Single bommie
Single bommie (or small cluster of
bommies), usually Porites spp., located at
current convergence points or current eddy
points near channel or on ocean facing
reef. Typically 1-4 aggregations of cleaners
per bommie.
Isolated coral blocks in shallow lagoons
with sand bottoms. 1-4 aggregations of
cleaners per block.
Lankan reef, Maavaru, Helengeli
thila, Fushifaru thila, Big thila,
Mulidhoo corner, Kani, Kurali,
Muli, Mudakan (10 sites)
Outer reef flat
Area of reef crest or reef flat on ocean
facing outer reef. >>10 aggregations of
cleaners distributed over
100-500 m²
Area on thila
Aggregation of cleaner fish at specific area
of thila, area may be visually distinctive.
10>4 aggregations of cleaners may be
Boduhithi Rasfari North,
Madivaru, Kalhahandi huraa,
Manadhoo, Alimathaa, Maa faru,
Emas thila, Himendhoo thila (9
Table thila, Boduhithi thila, Dhigu
thila, Donfanu thila, Nelivaru,
Iguraidhoo thila, Kottefaru thila,
Ukulhas (8 sites)
Lagoon blocks
Sunlight thila, Fairytale, Sandune,
North channel, Desperation thila,
Hanifaru, Dhiggiri (7 sites)
• Birds-eye-view diagram
of the main cleaning
station block at Lankan
• Each “Area” is an
aggregation of cleaner
fish. The presence of
cleaners at Area 4 varied
with season
Thank you for your attention
contact details: [email protected]

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