MEPS 234:247-255 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps234247

Cleaner fish Labroides dimidiatus reduce Œtemporary¹ parasitic corallanid isopods on the coral reef fish Hemigymnus melapterus

A. S. Grutter1,*, R. J. G. Lester2

1Department of Zoology and Entomology and
2Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia

ABSTRACT: To determine if cleaners affect Œtemporary¹ parasitic corallanid isopods (Argathona macronema) on fish, we used caged fish Hemigymnus melapterus (Labridae) on 5 patch reefs on Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, and removed all cleaner fish Labroides dimidiatus (Labridae) from 3 of the reefs. In a short-term experiment, fish were sampled after 12 or 24 h, at dawn and sunset respectively, and in a long-term experiment they were sampled after 12 d at sunset. Isopod prevalence, abundance and size were measured. In the short-term experiment, on reefs without cleaners the prevalence of A. macronema was higher after 24 h than after 12 h while on reefs with cleaners, prevalence was low at all times. Although the abundance of A. macronema did not vary after 12 and 24 h, when combined over the 24 h, the effect of cleaners was significant with only 2% of all the A. macronema found on reefs with cleaners. Cleaners had no effect on the size frequency distribution of A. macronema in the short-term experiment, most likely because fish had so few isopods on reef with cleaners. In the longer-term experiment, the effects of cleaners on isopod prevalence and abundance were less clear. Their effect on isopod size was, however, significant with smaller parasites on reefs without cleaners. The reduction of isopod prevalence and abundance by cleaner fish over a period of hours may explain why these A. macronema are rare on wild fish. Our findings support the idea that cleaning is beneficial to clients and has important implications for the control of parasites of fish farmed in cages.

KEY WORDS: Cleaning behaviour · Labroides dimidiatus · Corallanidae · Isopoda · Cleaner fish

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