One bite can destroy a reputation, even if you are a fish

Jul 13, 2011
Maintaining a clean reputation: Reputation rules the Surgeon fish and cleaner fish relationship. Photo Copyright belongs to Richard Smith - OceanRealmImages.com

(PhysOrg.com) -- Misbehaving in front of others can ruin your reputation even if you are a fish, according to an international study that has shown for the first time an audience can influence levels of cooperation in non-human animals.

Scientists from The University of Queensland (UQ), University of Cambridge, and the University of Neuchatel have found that cleaner fish that remove parasites from larger ‘client' fish – providing a type of cleaning service – are less likely to bite their client if they have an of other fish (eavesdropping bystanders).

These cleaner fish sometimes get greedy and bite clients rather than sticking to parasites. This bad behaviour brings mealtimes to an abrupt end as the disgruntled larger fish swims off.

The study, which was published in Current Biology today, showed that other large reef fish that observe this behavior avoid the cleaner fish that have a reputation for biting.

Study co-author, UQ's Dr Lexa Grutter, said the group's research has demonstrated for the first time that having an audience can influence levels of in a non-human animal.

“Having an audience makes cleaner fish work to improve their reputation by behaving more cooperatively,” Dr Grutter said.

“The fish in the audience – what we call ‘eavesdropping bystanders' - used image scoring to decide which cleaner fish to avoid.”

Future research will investigate whether cleaner fish care about their more if the bystanders are more valuable clients.

The bluestreak cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) is one of several species of cleaner wrasse found on coral reefs in much of the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, as well as many seas, including the Red Sea and those around Southeast Asia. Like other cleaner wrasses, it eats and dead tissue off the surface of larger fish in a mutualistic relationship that provides food and protection from predation for the wrasse, and considerable health benefits for the other .

Explore further: Lowly 'new girl' chimps form stronger female bonds

More information: The paper ‘Cleaner wrasses Labroides dimidiatus are more cooperative in the presence of an audience' is available online.

Related Stories

Fish weight-watchers

Jun 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Telling your partner to watch her weight is not recommended-unless you're a male cleaner fish, reports a new study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Researchers reveal that sharks are hygienic

Mar 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists at Bangor University have shown for the first time, that sharks visit shallow tropical reefs or 'seamounts', to benefit from cleaning services and rid themselves of cumbersome parasites. ...

Recommended for you

Our bond with dogs may go back more than 27,000 years

17 hours ago

Dogs' special relationship to humans may go back 27,000 to 40,000 years, according to genomic analysis of an ancient Taimyr wolf bone reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 21. Earlier genome ...

Social structure 'helps birds avoid a collision course'

20 hours ago

The sight of skilful aerial manoeuvring by flocks of Greylag geese to avoid collisions with York's Millennium Bridge intrigued mathematical biologist Dr Jamie Wood. It raised the question of how birds collectively ...

Orchid seductress ropes in unsuspecting males

20 hours ago

A single population of a rare hammer orchid species known as a master of sexual deception appears to have recently evolved to seduce a new and wider-spread species of impressionable male wasps.

Scientists announce top 10 new species for 2015

21 hours ago

A cartwheeling spider, a bird-like dinosaur and a fish that wriggles around on the sea floor to create a circular nesting site are among the species identified by the SUNY College of Environmental Science ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Telekinetic
1 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2011
Had the financial piranha of Wall Street been cleaner fish, we would have a much healthier economy today.
DavidMcC
not rated yet Jul 15, 2011
Presumably, these cleaner fish evolved from a species that parasitically bit other fish, and maybe hungrier than normal individuals are more likely to follow their instincts to do so.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.