Saturday, August 23, 2014

Amazing Sea Creatures Chapter 1 - Cleaner Wrasses

The cleaner wrasse is the best known of all cleaner fish.They are mostly found in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, living in reefs between 2-40 meters depth. The cleaner wrasse is part of the wrasse family together with 500 other types of wrasse fish. They can be found in pairs or smaller groups and sometimes just one by one. 

The cleaner wrasse grows to about 12 cm in size. All cleaner wrasses are born female, to reproduce, the biggest cleaner wrasse turns in to a male, if this male would die, the strongest one of the survivals will then turn into a new male.

Blue Streak Cleaner Wrasse
There are a couple of different types of cleaner wrasse. The most common one is the Blue Streak Cleaner Wrasse. You can tell it’s a blue streak cleaner wrasse by looking at the different colors: the head is white or sometimes yellowish; the middle portion of the body has a black stripe from head which stretches towards the tail. The “blue streak” is located around the tail fin.

The cleaner wrasses have a very important role in the marine eco system. Their role is to clean other fish, sometimes they are also referred to as dentists! At a coral reef they set up a cleaning station were they remove parasites and dead skin from all kinds of fish. Why you might ask? – This is because these parasites and dead skins are the main food source for the cleaner wrasse. We call this shared interest for a symbiotic relationship as both partners benefit from this behavior. The fish gets cleaned and the cleaner wrasse gets food.

We can see cleaner wrasses clean almost all fish in the ocean. From the big thresher sharks to tthe small anemone fish and sometimes even divers! Because of their important role in the sea they usually don't get eaten by bigger fish, as bigger fish recognizes the particular “dance” performed by the cleaner wrasse when they are ready to swim: moving up and down instead of swimming. So you could say that their roll is giving them some immunity. 

The cleaner wrasse is a very common fish although sometimes they are mistaken with the “False cleaner wrasse”. The false cleaner wrasse is actually a blenny that looks almost exactly like the real one.The difference is that the false cleaner wrasse has a longer snout, plus they also pretend to be a real cleaner wrasse in order to get close to the fish in need of cleaning. When they get close enough they take a bite and swim off quickly!

False Cleaner Fish

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