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Santa Cruz, CA

Vikram Baliga, PhD Candidate at UC Santa Cruz, member of the Mehta Lab. Areas of study: ecology, ontogeny, morphometrics, and comparative methods.


Species of the Moment: Labroides dimidiatus

Vikram Baliga

I had the good fortune of visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA again not too long ago. While I was there, I spent hours gawking at the tropical pacific reef galleries they have on display there. Not only are there over 1,000 animals on display in these galleries, but also there are several individuals of Labroides dimidiatus, the bluestreak cleaner wrasse. I was again able to shoot some videos, this time armed with a slightly-better camera.

Note: there seems to be a set resolution for uploading videos into this blog. To watch these videos in higher resolution, please click on the video title itself (inside the video frame) to view it on my YouTube channel.

In this first video, we see an individual bluestreak cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) cleaning a blue and yellow fusilier (Caesio teres). As the cleaning bout begins, the fusilier slows to a grinding halt. It eventually remains stationary as the cleaner wrasse inspects its body and dorsal fin. This behavior is common in clients; they often wait patiently as the cleaners work their magic.

When I observed the same individual of Labroides dimidiatus as above cleaning diamondfish (Monodactyus argenteus), I noticed that the cleaner tended to inspect only the cranial region of this client species, largely ignoring the rest of the body.

Cleaners often work in pairs, and that's what this video highlights. The client this time is a sailfin tang (Zebrasoma veliferum). Notice how it enters a trance-like state as the cleaners surround it and inspect for parasites. Of all the species I observed at the Aquarium of the Pacific, the sailfin tang was by far the most common client for Labroides dimidiatus.

Cleaning can attract a lot of attention, especially when it occurs in special zones termed "cleaning stations". This individual bluestreak cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) first inspects the pelvic fins and the underside of the body of a sailfin tang (Zebrasoma veliferum). A nearby Millet butterflyfish (Chaetodon miliaris) notices this activity and approaches the wrasse, hoping to be inspected as well. The cleaner briefly inspects the pelvic fins of the butterflyfish before speeding off.

Even when not cleaning, the bluestreak cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) will attract attention. The individual in this video does not seem to be all that interested in cleaning. Notice how each individual the cleaner wrasse approaches slows down, allowing time for the cleaner to inspect it. This behavior seems to occur automatically -- the clients slow to a halt even when the cleaner is not interested.

I hope I have given you more insight on the behavior of this fascinating species. As noted before, these videos (and more) have been posted to my YouTube channel, which is available at: Thanks for watching!

Labroides dimidiatus and Monodactyus argenteus