Influences on the cleaning activity and distribution of cleaner fish
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Cleaning interactions involve the removal of ectoparasites, mucus and dead tissue, by a cleaner from the skin of a cooperating fish – the client. These interactions generally benefit both the cleaner and the client, although this balance can shift if either party cheats, leading to antagonistic or exploitative behaviour. The activity of cleaner fish is affected by a variety of both physical and ecological factors. Ectoparasites make up a large portion of the diet of cleaner fish, thus ectoparasite availability is the major influence on cleaner activity, and so variations in ectoparasite densities tend to lead to variations in cleaner distribution. The ectoparasite load of a client is determined by client size, species, gregariousness and mobility. Habitat also influences the types of food available to cleaners, and thus determines their reliance on clients for food.
Gray, K. (2009) 'Influences on the cleaning activity and distribution of cleaner fish', The Plymouth Student Scientist, p. 195-202.