Spring Cleaning: It Even Happens in the Ocean!

Published May 06, 2014

It's official - Spring has sprung! For many, this is a time to reset, refresh and reorganize. For our oceanic counterparts, it's just another Tuesday...

Many pairs of sea creatures enjoy "spring cleaning" all year long through a great interaction known as symbiosis in which different species  take advantage of each other to achieve a specific goal. Most of these types of cleaning relationships are examples of mutualism, meaning both parties benefit from the relationship. One animal gets nutrition via a guaranteed food source, while the other is left cleaner and healthier.

In celebration of the Spring season, meet some of the ocean's most popular cleaners: 

Cleaner shrimp are some of the tidiest animals around. They use their claws to remove parasites, algae and dead tissue from a variety of fish species.

Banded Coral Shrimp

Forming groups of about 25, the shrimp will perform "rocking dances" or swish their antennae back and forth to attract clients and let them know they are ready to clean. Some species will even crawl inside the mouths of larger fish to remove any parasites hiding inside.

Yellow tangs and sea turtles make fantastic partners. Yellow tangs group together to eagerly await the arrival of a sea turtle, and with it, their dinner.

yellow tangs

The tang eats algae and parasites from turtle’s skin, a safe and convenient spot to feed. The turtle's shell is cleaned, making it healthier and smoother. As a result, the turtle can swim more easily throughout the ocean.

Cleaner wrasses are  hygiene-conscious fish that form cleaning units, beckoning clients by swimming up and down. Their role as ocean disinfectants contributes to their survival.

cleaner wrasse

Larger fish refrain from eating the wrasses, as they know their ability to remove parasites and keep them clean is more valuable than becoming a momentary food source.

Mola mola, also known as sunfish, look out of this world. They can grow to be thousands pounds, and can carry up to 40 different kinds of parasites!

mola mola

When the sunfish feels the urgent need to remove any parasitic problems, they head to the nearest kelp bed where both gobies AND seagulls are around and ready to provide relief.

 
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