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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS - Vol. 296 - Feature article
A yellowtail damselfish Microspathodon chrysurus hovers near the coral substratum in a posture typical of fish visiting cleaner shrimps and gobies that remove ectoparasites. Photo: ©2005 Paul Humann/ Used by permission

Sikkel PC, Herzlieb SE, Kramer DL


Compensatory cleaner-seeking behavior following spawning in female yellowtail damselfish


Dawn on Caribbean coral reefs: female yellowtail damselfish (photo) visit male territories to spawn. Infestation by their most common parasites (gnathiid isopods), and visits to cleaner fishes and shrimps that remove these parasites, also peak at this time. Thus, there is a potential time-budgeting conflict between cleaning and spawning. Paul Sikkel, Steven Herzlieb and Donald Kramer observed that female damselfish spent <1/3 as much time with cleaners during days on which they spawned as compared to days on which they did not spawn. However, in the 30 minutes after spawning, females substantially increased their rate of interaction with cleaners compared with the same time on non-spawning days. They thereby compensated for about 68% of the missed time with cleaners. Compensatory post-spawning visiting to cleaners supports the hypothesis that cleaning is important, probably because of negative consequences of the dawn peak in parasite loads.


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