The cleaner shrimp Lysmata amboinensis adjusts its behaviour towards predatory versus non-predatory clients.
In cleaning mutualisms, small cleaner organisms remove ectoparasites and dead skin from larger clients. Because cheating by predatory clients can result in cleaner death, cleaners should assess the potential risk of interacting with a given client and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Cleaner shrimp are small marine crustaceans that interact with numerous client fish species, many of which are potential predators. We use in situ observations of cleaner-client interactions to show that the cleaner shrimp Lysmata amboinensis adjusts several behaviours when interacting with predatory versus non-predatory clients. Predatory clients were cleaned in a significantly lower proportion of interactions than non-predatory clients, and cleaners also exhibited a leg rocking behaviour-potentially signalling their identity or intent to clean-almost exclusively toward predatory clients. Incidence of leg rocking was positively correlated with client size, and laboratory experiments showed that it can be elicited by dark visual stimuli and decreases in illumination level. Thus, cleaners clean less frequently when predation risk is higher, and may use leg rocking as a signal advertising cleaning services and directed specifically at predators.
Caves, EM; Chen, C; Johnsen, S
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