Cleaner-client interactions and depth distributions among three cleaner species: Bodianus rufus, Elacatinus evelynae, and Anclyomenes pedersoni
Cleaning is a symbiotic behavior that has been observed in many animals, including both terrestrial and marine species. Cleaner species and their cleaning stations play a vital role in coral reef ecosystems by removing parasites, mucus, and diseased or dead tissues from their client fish. In this study, the depth distribution of cleaning stations and the interactions between cleaner and client species were observed with respect to three of the most prominent cleaner species in the Caribbean: juvenile Bodianus rufus (Spanish hogfish), Elacatinus evelynae (Sharknose goby), and Anclyomenes pedersoni (Pederson‟s cleaning shrimp). Research dives were conducted at Yellow Sub dive site on the leeward or west coast of Bonaire, D.C., a small island in the southern Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela. Two dives were conducted ad libitum, with observers recording all cleaning stations between 20 and 50 ft to determine the distribution of the three cleaning species. Observations on cleaner-client interactions were collected at several shallow stations on ten subsequent dives. Cleaner-client interactions at each station were categorized as inspected and cleaned, ignored, jolted, and scared away by another fish. Data analysis indicates that B. rufus, E. evelynae, and A. pedersoni do not have different depth distributions, but they all show the highest abundance of stations between 20 and 30 ft. The four cleaner-client interactions varied by both cleaner and client species. It is important to better understand the role of cleaning stations in coral reef ecosystems, as they are known to positively affect fish richness and diversity.