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Degrees of honesty: cleaning by the redlip cleaner wrasse Labroides rubrolabiatus

Abstract : Cleaning symbioses among coral reef fishes are highly variable. Cleanerfishes vary in how much they cooperate with (i.e. remove only ectoparasites) or cheat (i.e. bite healthy tissue, scales or mucus) on their fish clients. As a result, clients use various strategies to enforce cooperation by cleaners (e.g. punishment or partner choice), and cleaners use tactile stimulation to manipulate cheated client behaviour. We provide the first detailed observations of cleaning behaviour of the redlip cleaner wrasse Labroides rubrolabiatus and ask where interactions with this cleanerfish lie on the continuum of cleanerfish honesty, client control, and cleanerfish manipulation. Ninety per cent of redlip cleaner wrasses took jolt-inducing cheating bites from their clients, but they did so at a very low rate (~ 2 jolts per 100 s inspection). Retaliatory chases by clients were uncommon. Three-quarters (30 of 40) of cleaner wrasses used tactile stimulation on their clients, but rarely did so to reconcile with cheated clients. Instead, the majority (70%) of tactile stimulation events targeted a passing client that then stopped for inspection. The relationship between redlip cleaner wrasses and their clients appears to be less conflictual than those documented in other Labroides cleanerfishes. Future studies should test whether this low level of conflict is consistent across space and time and is underpinned by a preference for ectoparasites over other client-gleaned items. As an active cleaner that appears to take few cheating bites from their clients, L. rubrolabiatus has the potential to be as important a driver of fish health and community structure on coral reefs as its better-known relatives.
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Submitted on : Thursday, October 29, 2020 - 9:52:21 AM
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Isabelle Côté, Suzanne Mills. Degrees of honesty: cleaning by the redlip cleaner wrasse Labroides rubrolabiatus. Coral Reefs, Springer Verlag, 2020, ⟨10.1007/s00338-020-01996-6⟩. ⟨hal-02982874⟩



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