Marine Biology

, Volume 148, Issue 4, pp 889–897 | Cite as

Interactions between fangblennies (Plagiotremus rhinorhynchus) and their potential victims: fooling the model rather than the client?

  • Magnus L. JohnsonEmail author
  • Susan L. Hull
Research Article


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.


Fish Density Attack Success Potential Victim Potential Client Clean Fish 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



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.


  1. Bshary R, Grutter AS (2002) Asymmetric cheating opportunities and partner control in cleaner fish mutualism. Anim Behav 63:547–555CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bshary R, Schäffer D (2002) Choosy reef fish select cleaner fish that provide high quality service. Anim Behav 63:557–564CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Côté IM (2000) Evolution and ecology of cleaning symbioses in the sea. Mar Biol Oceanogr Annu Rev 38:311–355Google Scholar
  4. Côté IM, Cheney KL (2004) Distance-dependent costs and benefits of aggressive mimicry in a cleaning symbiosis. Proc R Soc B 271(1557):2627–2630CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Côté IM, Cheney KL (2005) Animal mimicry: choosing when to be a cleaner fish. Nature 433:211–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Côté IM, Arnal C, Reynolds JD (1998) Variation in posing behaviour among fish species visiting cleaning stations. J Fish Biol 53(Suppl A):256–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carpenter GDH, Ford EB (1933) Mimicry. Methuen, London, pp 134Google Scholar
  8. Clark KR, Warwick RM (1994) Changes in marine communities: an approach to statistical analysis and interpretation. Natural Environmental Research Council, PlymouthGoogle Scholar
  9. Deloach N (1999) Reef fish behaviour. New World Publications, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  10. Dusenbery D (1992) Sensory ecology. Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Eibl-Eibesfeldt I (1959) Der Fisch Aspidontus taeniatus als Nachahmer des Putzers Labroides dimidiatus. Z Tierpsychol 12:203–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. English S, Wilkinson C, Baker V (1997) Survey manual for tropical marine resources. Australian Institute for Marine Resources, TownsvilleGoogle Scholar
  13. Foster SA (1958) Group foraging by a coral reef fish: a mechanism for gaining access to defended resources. Anim Behav 33:782–779CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fowler J, Cohen L, Jarvis P (1998) Practical statistics for field biology. Wiley, EnglandGoogle Scholar
  15. Grutter AS (1995) Relationship between cleaning rates and ectoparasite loads in coral reef fishes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 118:51–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Huheey JE (1988) Mathematical models of mimicry. Am Nat 131:S22–S41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kuwamura T (1981) Mimicry of the cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus by the blennies Aspidontus taeniatus and Plagiotremus rhinorhynchus. Nanki Seibutu 23:61–70Google Scholar
  18. Kuwamura T (1983) Reexamination on the aggressive mimicry of the cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus by the blenny Aspidontus taeniatus. J Ethol 1:22–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lieske E, Myers R (1996) Coral reef fishes. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  20. Moland E, Jones GP (2004) Experimental confirmation of aggressive mimicry by a coral reef fish. Oecologia 140:676–683CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Pohlmann K, Grasso FW, Breithaupt T (2001) Tracking wakes: the nocturnal predatory strategy of piscivorous catfish. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98(13):7371–7374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Potts GW (1973) The ethology of Labroides dimidiatus (Cuv. & Val.) (Labridae; Pisces) on Aldabra. Anim Behav 21:250–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Sazima I (2002) Juvenile snooks (Centropomidae) as mimics of mojarras (Gerreidae), with a review of aggressive mimicry in fishes. Environ Biol Fishes 65:37–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Stummer LE, Weller JA, Johnson ML, Côté IM (2004) Size and stripes: how fish clients recognize cleaners. Anim Behav 68:145–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Turner JRG (1971) Studies of Mullerian mimicry and its evolution in burnet moths and heliconid butterflies. In: Creed R (ed) Ecological genetics and evolution. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  26. Underwood AJ (1997) Experiments in ecology: their logical design and interpretation using analysis of variance. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Zar JH (1999) Biostatistical analysis. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Scarborough Centre for Coastal StudiesUniversity of Hull at ScarboroughScarboroughUK
  2. 2.Operation WallaceaHope House, Old BolingbrokeLinconshireUK

Personalised recommendations