, Volume 47, Issue 5, pp 353-358

Cleaner-client interactions on a Caribbean reef: influence of correlates of parasitism

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We investigated the influence of known correlates of parasitism, namely fish density, body size and social behaviour, on three highly variable aspects of the interactions between cleaning gobies (Elacatinus spp.) and their clients, on a Barbadian coral reef. We specifically considered (1) variability in client visit rate to cleaning stations, (2) cleaning goby preference for specific clients and (3) variation in the time spent cleaning by cleaners. Using phylogenetically independent contrasts, we found that client species that were abundant on the reef visited cleaning stations more often than rarer client species. This could be due to the positive relationship between ectoparasite load and client density, or alternatively may simply reflect the frequency of contact between cleaners and clients. Cleaning gobies spent more time cleaning large-bodied clients, which usually have higher ectoparasite loads, although cleaning goby preference for clients was influenced by none of the correlates of client parasitism. Overall, factors assumed to correlate with ectoparasite load had a limited influence on the variability observed in the interactions between cleaning gobies and their clients.

Received: 27 October 1999 / Received in revised form: 11 January 2000 / Accepted: 24 January 2000