The beauticians of the water world

Cleaner Wrasses
These small reef fish have evolved to make themselves immune to regular attacks from larger predatory fish by offering a much needed service.

bluestreak cleaner wrasse
Adult Blue streak cleaner wrasse
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Juvenile Blue streak cleaner wrasse

Most fish develop camouflage to prevent themselves from being eaten or have schooling behaviour to confuse their attackers. The cleaner wrasse has bold bright colours and a distinct shape, so rather than live in fear this clever little guy survives death by cleaning the parasites that inhabit the gills, fins and scales of other fish. Some fish even get dental from these guys, that’s very trusting of the cleaner wrasse.
The cleaner wrasse has what is known as  a cleaning station, so fish actually have a location of where to clean up. The wrasse draws attention to his station by performing a dance to show he is ready for customers.

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BSCW cleaning the body of a Surf parrotfish
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BSCW performing it’s dance to invite customers (a Green pastel wrasse)

There are some species of fish that mimic this clever fish. Species such as the false cleaner fish (aspidontus taeniatus) look almost identical and even display the same dances, however this imposter will get his nutritional intake by taking a bite out of the unsuspecting customer.

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