Coral Reefs

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 223–233 | Cite as

Cleaning up the biogeography of Labroides dimidiatus using phylogenetics and morphometrics

  • C. A. SimsEmail author
  • C. Riginos
  • S. P. Blomberg
  • T. Huelsken
  • J. Drew
  • A. S. Grutter


Cleaner fishes are some of the most conspicuous organisms on coral reefs due to their behaviour and prominent body pattern, consisting of a lateral stripe and blue/yellow colouration. All obligate cleaner fishes share this body stripe pattern, which is an important signal for attracting client fishes. However, variability in the cleaning signal of the cleaner fish Labroides dimidiatus has been documented across its range. Here, we investigate the geographic distribution of cleaner signal polymorphisms in L. dimidiatus and contrast this to phylogeographic variation in mitochondrial (mt) DNA. We used samples from 12 sites for genetic analyses, encompassing much of L. dimidiatus’ range from the Red Sea to Fiji. We obtained morphometric measures of the cleaner signal body stripe width from individuals among six of the sites and qualitatively grouped tail stripe shape. mtDNA control region sequences were used for phylogenetic and population genetic analyses. We found that body stripe width was significantly correlated with tail stripe shape and geographical location, with Indian Ocean populations differing in morphology from western Pacific populations. L. dimidiatus haplotypes formed two reciprocally monophyletic clades, although in contrast to morphology, Japanese cleaner fish fell within the same clade as Indian Ocean cleaner fish and both clade types were sympatric in Papua New Guinea. An additional novel finding of our research was that the inclusion of two closely related cleaner fish species, Labroides pectoralis and Labroides bicolor, in the phylogenetic analysis rendered L. dimidiatus polyphyletic. Overall, the findings suggest the diversity within L. dimidiatus is underestimated.


Communication signals Cleaner fish Indo-Pacific Morphometrics Phylogeography Phylogenetics 



ASG and CR were funded by the Australian Research Council and The University of Queensland. JAD was supported by the National Science Foundation, JD and CT MacArthur Foundation of the Encyclopaedia of Life and Columbia University. For specimen collections and data, we thank JH Choat, R Robertson, L van Herwerden, A Anderson, MA Johnson, M Gauthier and N Okuda, as well as many other volunteers and research assistants for help with the collection of fish. We thank the Coral Reef Ecology and Ecological and Evolutionary Genetics Laboratories for helpful discussions and laboratory support. CAS thanks C Mills for the title and S Calandra for continued support and advice. The authors would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 24 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (DOC 75 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (EPS 1192 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. A. Sims
    • 1
    Email author
  • C. Riginos
    • 1
  • S. P. Blomberg
    • 1
  • T. Huelsken
    • 1
  • J. Drew
    • 2
  • A. S. Grutter
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental BiologyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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