Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 603–608 | Cite as

Fish cleaning interactions on a remote island in the Tropical Eastern Pacific

  • Juan Pablo Quimbayo
  • M. S. Dias
  • O. R. C. Schlickmann
  • T. C. Mendes
Short Communication


Cleaning interactions are an essential feature of marine ecosystems since they help maintain a healthy community. However, knowledge on the magnitude of the cleaning interactions in the Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP) is scarce, especially in remote places like oceanic islands. Here, we describe for the first time the cleaning interactions among reef fishes at Malpelo Island, a World Heritage site located in the TEP. In 120 cleaning events at Malpelo, we have observed five fish species acting as cleaners and nineteen acting as clients. We observed one local endemic and four regional endemic species of the TEP among the cleaners, and five elasmobranchs and fourteen ray-finned species as clients. Our results show that Johnrandallia nigrirostris was the cleaner with the largest number of events and client species, whereas Lepidonectes bimaculatus was the most specific cleaner (i.e. it has only one client species). We observed that 56 % of the cleaning interactions involved a top predator as client. Our results suggest that the role of cleaner is executed by just few fish species at Malpelo Island, and that a high number of cleaning interactions occur with top predators (groupers, snappers, sharks, and rays), which could be an indication of the good conservation status of Malpelo.


Mutualism Malpelo Island Oceanic island Reef fishes Elasmobranch Colombia 



This study was carried out under the “Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape” initiative. We thank Carlos G. Muñoz, Jose J. Tavera and Erika P. Lopez for sharing information, videos and photos using as data in this manuscript, Osmar Luiz and Eric Garcia provided comments on versions of this manuscript. J.P.Q., M.S.D. (CNPq /PDJ n° 150784/2015-5) and T.C.M (PDE n° 202150/2014-3) tare in debt with CAPES and CNPq for financial support. We also acknowledge Fundación Malpelo y Otros Ecosistemas by logistic organization, Colombian National Natural Parks for permits, Conservation International, Unesco, The Walton Family Foundation and Fondo para la Acción Ambiental y la Niñez for funding research at Malpelo Island.


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan Pablo Quimbayo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • M. S. Dias
    • 4
  • O. R. C. Schlickmann
    • 2
  • T. C. Mendes
    • 5
  1. 1.Programa de Pós-graduação em EcologiaUniversidade Federal de Santa CatarinaFlorianópolisBrazil
  2. 2.Laboratório de Biogeografia e Macroecologia Marinha, Departamento de Ecologia e Zoologia, Centro de Ciências BiológicasUniversidade Federal de Santa CatarinaFlorianópolisBrazil
  3. 3.Grupo de Investigación en Ecología de Arrecifes CoralinosUniversidad del ValleCaliColombia
  4. 4.Departamento de EcologiaUniversidade de BrasíliaBrasíliaBrazil
  5. 5.Institute de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), UMR “Entropie”, Labex CorailUniversité de PerpignanPerpignanFrance

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