, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 515-520
Date: 05 Nov 2004

Cleaner shrimp do clean

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Apart from cleaner fish, there are many reports on cleaning by shrimps, yet whether shrimps actually ‘clean’, i.e. eat parasites in the wild, has not been demonstrated. For the first time, we show that, conclusively, cleaner shrimp in the wild do clean. We found crustacean ectoparasites from the Family Gnathiidae and the Class Copepoda in the gut contents of wild cleaner shrimp, Urocaridella sp. and Periclimenes holthuisi. In addition, they ate parasitic monogenean flatworms, Benedenia sp., offered to them in the laboratory. Finally, P. holthuisi, significantly reduced monogenean, Benedenia sp., loads by 74.5% on captive surgeonfish Ctenochaetus striatus within 48 h. Such large reductions in parasite loads are likely to benefit individual fish. These results emphasise the need for more information on the ecological role of cleaner shrimp on coral reefs.

Communicated by Ecological Editor P.F. Sale