The Cleaner Shrimp
Look at these two photos of the same organism.
Now observe what is it doing near the fish ‘s mouth.
It is doing exactly what the Plover bird did for the Nile Crocodile : cleaning the teeth.
But it does so in a different way. Let us see how.
First, the organism is called “ The Cleaner Shrimp”. It is called a decapod as it has has ten feet.
It stays near Coral Reefs in seas. In the photographs above, you can see them looking like stones in the background.
We will learn about corals later.
They are tiny organisms that live in the sea in colonies.
These colonies are called Coral Reefs.
They are called “Rainforests of the Sea”
So, our cleaner shrimps live near the coral reefs .
They form pairs or larger groups and set up a “cleaning station”.
This is how shrimps get together to form a Cleaning Station.
Their bright colour tells the fish that they are not ordinary shrimps, who can be eaten. When found together in groups, fish immediately know that they have set up a station. Some kinds of cleaner shrimps even perform dances to advertise about and invite fish into their new cleaning station.
A big fish swims slowly into the cleaning station, very calmly so that the cleaning shrimps know that they are not going to be eaten. They even pose in a certain way to show the shrimps that they are safe. They may point in a certain direction or even open the mouth wide.
If the fish is small, a single shrimp is able to clean it .
A single shrimp cleaning a small cardinal fish in various ways.
A larger fish called Moray Eel needs an entire group.
Moray Eel is a fierce predator in the sea. Yet, it is very harmless before the shrimps and lets them do their cleaning.
Cleaner Shrimps look for dead scales, parasites, bits of food in the fish’s mouth. They pluck these things with the help of their small pinchers and eat them. Then they enter the fish’s body through their mouth, clean their throat and then exit through the gills. They crawl over the entire body of the fish and clean it.
The fish feels fresh and clean ; safe from infections which those parasites may have caused and the group of cleaner shrimps get their food together.
This is how both fish and cleaner shrimps are able to help each other.
Cleaner shrimps are not the only living beings who clean the fish in the seas. There are other small cleaner fish who also do the same thing. One among them is the Cleaner Wrasse.
Click : The Cleaner Wrasse