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Cleaning stations

Pez mariposa

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Marine animals, unlike terrestrial ones, cannot clean their skin themselves to combat parasites. That’s why they seek out true “cleaning stations.” In every reef, there is a corner where other animals take care of this task. Whenever a fish wants to be cleaned, it heads to this area and remains very still. Sometimes, a change in the fish’s color is a clear signal that it is expecting a “service.”

This beautiful long-nosed butterflyfish has just been “attended to” by a shrimp that pecks away at the parasites. Sometimes, these shrimp clean wounds on the fish by eating dead tissues and facilitating healing. The audacity of the shrimp goes to such an extent that they have been seen entering the mouths of moray eels to clean their insides. Contrary to what one might think, the moray eel does not display any offensive behavior towards this small cleaner. Perhaps its docility is based on the fact that it needs the cleaner’s services daily. Some smaller fish also take on the task of cleaning larger specimens.

In this type of relationship, called “symbiosis,” both individuals benefit. The sea is full of beautiful stories, and this is just one more…

“You cannot defend what you do not love, and you cannot love what you do not know.”