A mutualistic relationship in Hawaiian waters

Mutualism: a symbiotic relationship that benefits both organisms

The Hawaiian Cleaner wrasse is a little fish (about 4 inches long) endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and extremely important for maintaining the health of other reef fish. The brightly colored wrasse establishes cleaning stations in order to remove mucous, scales and ectoparasites from other fish. The cleaning service allows the wrasse to receive protection and food while the other fish are freed from harmful parasites. The Latin species name, Labroides phthirophagus, actually means “louse eater”.

While traveling on the Big Island over Thanksgiving, I was able to witness the Hawaiian Cleaner wrasse cleaning two Rockmover wrasses.

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2 Responses to “A mutualistic relationship in Hawaiian waters”

  1. the water is so clear over there!

  2. Heather, So glad to see your “louse eaters”. I can hear them saying house cleaning coming thru…

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