When it comes to messing around with the meal ticket, it seems male fish are apt to punish greedy females who take more than they should putting the entire group’s food source in jeopardy. Cleaner fish, who get their meals from eating parasites off of other fish and sea-dwelling animals in “cleaning stations” set up on different parts of the reef, may get a little greedy and bite off more than just a parasite tapping into the fish’s mucous layer, startling the fish causing it to jet off along with the cleaner’s meal. It seems that the more dominant males take matters in their own hands to keep the females honest and will show aggressive behavior to females once the food source disappears after a voracious little bite into the mucous layer. Scientists at Switzerland’s Université de Neuchâte set up a laboratory test after observing this behavior in the wild. The team used bluestreak cleaner wrasses in an aquarium and fed them their typical diet fish flakes and added prawns to simulate the tasty treat of fish mucous. As soon as a female ate a prawn, the food was removed from the tank. The team observed the males “chastising” the females causing the bad behavior to stop. Some scientists did note that the meal-cheating behavior is not just left to the females as male cleaner fish may take part in this but it’s the more dominant fish that dole out the punishment.
[via National Geographic]
Image, National Geographic