Observations on a school of ocean sunfish and evidence for a symbiotic cleaning association with albatrosses
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- Abe, T., Sekiguchi, K., Onishi, H. et al. Mar Biol (2012) 159: 1173. doi:10.1007/s00227-011-1873-6
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We observed a school of ocean sunfish Mola mola at the surface in the western North Pacific Ocean (40°46.8′N, 165°01.7′E) for about 90 min in July 2010. The school consisted of juvenile fish, approximately 40 cm in total length, which kept the same tight formation throughout the observation. Most fish were heavily infested around the base of their dorsal fins with an ecto-parasite Pennella sp. The fish school appeared to actively follow Laysan albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis that were sitting on the water nearby, and one of the birds was photographed as it picked a Pennella sp. from one of the fish and ate it. We hypothesize that this symbiotic cleaning behavior by the albatrosses may be a common feature of the biology of the ocean sunfish.