We often hear of symbiotic relationships in the marine realm, clownfish living inside the poisonous tendrils of anemones is probably the most iconic, not to mention the most colorful and photographed. The clownfish has an immunity to the anemone’s toxins where-as other fish do not, including predators, making the anemone a perfectly safe home. The anemone benefits by bits of food carried in by the clownfish as well as the aeration caused by the fish’s constant agitation. This is a perfect example of mutualism when both species benefit by cooperative behavior. (photo – Michele Westmorland)
Cleaner Shrimp picks teeth!
Cleaner shrimp get their names from, duh, “cleaning” and you can often spot them by the lineup of fish waiting patiently to be picked at a “cleaning station.”
Fish and eels congregate to have parasites and dead cells picked from their mouths and bodies while the shrimp gets rewarded for all of its hard work by being well fed. (photo – prilfish)
Decorator Crab gets decorated!
The decorator crab cuts off pieces of anemones and attaches them to its carapace. The crab benefits because the venomous anemones offer him protection and the anemones are happy because when they are moving, they are provided a constantly renewing food supply.
The Pistol Shrimp and the Goby!
When the pistol shrimp burrows through the sand it’s looking for food but simultaneously creates a home. But since the shrimp is blind it cannot tell when predators approach.
The goby shares the burrow created by the shrimp and in return acts as a bodyguard, warning the shrimp by wriggling its body whenever a predator comes too close for comfort. The goby gets a nice home, away from predators and a place to lay its eggs at breeding time. (photo – BBM Explorer)
Cormorant Dive Bombing Whale Shark
Another iconic underwater image is of the huge whale shark slowly gliding thru the water with smaller fish, remoras, attached. The remora gets a free ride and leftovers from what the larger animal is feeding on. But it’s not all free ride, the remora removes small crustacean parasites called Copepods from the whale shark’s skin. Seems like a good example of a mutual symbiotic relationship.
But a recent video caught something never seen before. The Sea of Cortez off Mexico’s Baja California is frequented by whale sharks and they swim through with remoras attached, all of that is normal. Then the normal is shattered by a diving cormorant that attacks the remora and yanks furiously until it comes free. The cormorant then returns to the surface to enjoy its dinner. We know that cormorants are amazing at fishing but this video is extraordinary.
This footage was shot in 2012 but not circulated until recently and has created quite a stir. Dr. Simon Pierce, a marine biologist said: “I don’t think it’s ever been documented. I’ve never seen or heard of it previously, but that particular cormorant certainly knew what it was doing. Smart bird!”
Cormorants can remain underwater no more than 70 seconds, so they’ve got to move quickly and this one does. And he goes back for seconds and thirds. Since this action had never been seen before, is this behavior unique? Probably not since similar behavior has been documented in other species like sea lions in the Galapagos. (photo – pinterest)
The action does not seem to cause concern for the whale shark, who seems unperturbed and just rolls its’ eyes. Ripping the remora free shouldn’t hurt, since the whale shark’s skin is among the thickest in the animal kingdom. The shark may even appreciate the remora’s removal. Other species most notably dolphins and basking sharks do try to dislodge remoras. Read more here.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean.net
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