Interactions between fangblennies (Plagiotremus rhinorhynchus) and their potential victims: fooling the model rather than the client?
Lepidophagous (scale-eating) blue-striped fangblennies (Plagiotremus rhinorhynchus Bleeker 1852) are often found sympatrically with the bluestreak cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus Valenciennes 1839). They have some resemblance to the juvenile L. dimidiatus and have previously been reported as aggressive cleaner wrasse mimics. We observed 14 P. rhinorhynchus on a small area in the barrier reef near Hoga Island, Indonesia to assess the effects of client size on the behaviour and attack success of fangblennies: our results suggest that fangblennies are selective with regard to victim size; fish avoided by the fangblennies are significantly larger than those not avoided and attack success is significantly higher at intermediate victim size classes. The behaviour of the victims also has a significant direct effect on the foraging success of the fangblennies; where the potential victim posed, 63.6% were ignored by the fangblenny and only 7.4% of attacks were successful on posing fish as opposed to a surprise attack success rate of 71.6%. Overall, victims which exhibited the pose behaviour were significantly smaller in size. It appears likely that the predatory strategy of these fangblennies varies with victim size and that mimicry plays a minor role in attracting potential victims. We suggest that in common with other mimetic fish the resemblance of fangblennies to juvenile bluestreak cleaner wrasse allows them to actively hunt in areas where adult cleaners are common thus, indirectly improving their feeding opportunities.
We thank the staff of Hoga Island Marine Research facility for their assistance, I. M. Côté for her assistance and Redouan Bshary for useful discussions. MLJ would like to acknowledge the support of colleagues at the Centre for Coastal Studies that permitted his extensive time in the field.
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