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Cleaner fish

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While the potato cod is a carnivore, eating many varieties of fish, shellfish, crabs, worms, starfish, and other sea life, like the other fish that come to visit the small cleaner fish (In this case, a cleaner wrasse), eating their cleaners is largely unknown. Without being cleaned, many ocean fish would quickly succumb to disease, or parasites of various kinds, making regular visits to a cleaning station necessary to their survival. The survival of their cleaners, who in some cases, gain almost all of their nutrition from their cleaning sessions, also depends on the returned visits of their "clients", so they tend not to "cheat", and eat living parts of the larger fish. "This tiny bluestreak cleaner wrasse looks pretty brave by swimming into that big potato cod's mouth, but don't worry. These two fish have a deal! The cleaner wrasse helps out bigger fish by eating any parasites and dead tissue that might be clinging to them. In exchange for the wrasse's assistance, the bigger fish refrain from snacking on them. The wrasse gets a free meal from the cod, and the cod stays healthier because of the wrasse. Relationships like this, where different plants or animals work together and help each other out is called "mutualism" because both organisms mutually benefit from the other being around. In fact, these little cleaner wrasses are so good at what they do, that these bigger fish will actually seek them out-- they'll deliberately pay visits to wrasse cleaning stations along reefs, much the same way people will line up to have their cars cleaned on a nice summer day!"

Contributed by Sean Gay

Cleaner fish play a vital role in their ecosystems, setting up cleaning stations where they await "clients", for whom they will remove parasites, dead skin, food stuck in a fish's teeth, and unusual growths, or attachments. They are largely indiscriminate, simply cleaning any fish that comes along, and opens its mouth, the signal to begin cleaning, at their cleaning station. As we can see in this video, their non-discrimination policy even extends to humans, and likely would to most any other animal that came along.

Contributed by Sean Gay

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