Cleaner shrimp and their reef fish clients are an interspecific mutualistic interaction that is thought to be mediated by signals, and a useful system for studying the dynamics of interspecific signalling. To demonstrate signalling, one must show that purported signals at minimum (a) result in a consistent state change in the receiver and (b) contain reliable information about the sender's intrinsic state or future behaviour. Additionally, signals must be perceptible by receivers. Here, we document fundamental attributes of the signalling system between the cleaner shrimp Ancylomenes pedersoni and its clients. First, we use sequential analysis of in situ behavioural interactions to show that cleaner antenna whipping reliably predicts subsequent cleaning. If shrimp do not signal via antenna whipping, clients triple their likelihood of being cleaned by adopting darker coloration over a matter of seconds, consistent with dark colour change signalling that clients want cleaning. Using experimental manipulations, we found that visual stimuli are sufficient to elicit antenna whipping, and that shrimp are more likely to ‘clean' dark than light visual stimuli. Lastly, we show that antenna whipping and colour change are perceptible when accounting for the intended receiver's visual acuity and spectral sensitivity, which differ markedly between cleaners and clients. Our results show that signalling by both cleaners and clients can initiate and mediate their mutualistic interaction.
Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences
Many marine invertebrates provide their offspring with symbionts. Yet the consequences of maternally inherited symbionts on larval fitness remain largely unexplored. In the stony coral Favia fragum (Esper 1797), mothers produce larvae with highly variable amounts of endosymbiotic algae, and we examined the implications of this variation in symbiont density on the performance of F. fragum larvae under different environmental scenarios. High symbiont densities prolonged the period that larvae actively swam and searched for suitable settlement habitats. Thermal stress reduced survival and settlement success in F. fragum larvae, whereby larvae with high symbiont densities suffered more from non-lethal stress and were five times more likely to die compared with larvae with low symbiont densities. These results show that maternally inherited algal symbionts can be either beneficial or harmful to coral larvae depending on the environmental conditions at hand, and suggest that F. fragum mothers use a bet-hedging strategy to minimize risks associated with spatio-temporal variability in their offspring's environment.
On coral reefs, herbivorous fishes consume benthic primary producers and regulate competition between fleshy algae and reef-building corals. Many of these species are also important fishery targets, yet little is known about their global status. Using a large-scale synthesis of peer-reviewed and unpub- lished data, we examine variability in abundance and biomass of herbivorous reef fishes and explore evidence for fishing impacts globally and within regions. We show that biomass is more than twice as high in locations not accessible to fisheries relative to fisheries-accessible locations. Although there are large biogeographic differences in total biomass, the effects of fishing are consistent in nearly all regions. We also show that exposure to fishing alters the structure of the herbivore community by disproportionately reducing bio- mass of large-bodied functional groups (scraper/excavators, browsers, grazer/ detritivores), while increasing biomass and abundance of territorial algal- farming damselfishes (Pomacentridae). The browser functional group that consumes macroalgae and can help to prevent coral–macroalgal phase shifts appears to be most susceptible to fishing. This fishing down the herbivore guild probably alters the effectiveness of these fishes in regulating algal abun- dance on reefs. Finally, data from remote and unfished locations provide important baselines for setting management and conservation targets for this important group of fishes.