The blue (or blue streak) cleaner wrasse, Labroides dimidiatus, are the dentists in the sea on our reefs here in Bali. The black and white cleaner wrasse live in small groups and usually set up ‘cleaning stations’ on the reef. At about 10cm long, they are the perfect size to swim in and around the bodies, gills and even mouths of puffers, surgeonfish, groupers, morays and other larger reef fish. Their clients pose ready for the cleaner wrasse to eat away the harmful parasites and dead skin cells. This relationship is known as mutualism, a form of symbiosis in which both partners benefit; the reef fish get cleaned and rid of parasites and the cleaner fish gains protection and a food source.
At times, this relationship can turn into a parasitic one; in which the wrasse feed on the scales and mucus of the reef fish. When this harmful act happens, the reef fish may swim away or even chase the wrasse.
This mutually beneficial relationship is interesting to see. The blue streak cleaner wrasse does a bit of a dance to calm their client, and the larger reef fish usually opens its mouth wide, waits patiently and allows the cleaner wrasse to swim all around them to get the job done. These are not the only symbiotic relationships that we see on our Bali coral reefs. Come check out the clownfish and sea anemones, the goby fish and pistol shrimp, the crinoid shrimp and feather stars and many more amazing partnerships in the sea. Nature is amazing!
To learn more about these intricate behaviors, why not sign up for the PADI Underwater Naturalist Speciality. This one day course teaches you about symbiosis as you search for mutual, commensal and parasitic relationships over two dives. Come and check out our aquatic world and see how organisms can work together in one ecosystem.
We look forward to diving Amed with you soon.