One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A small fish, especially a striped wrasse, that is permitted to remove parasites from the skin, gills, and mouth of larger fishes, to their mutual benefit.
Genus Labroides, family Labridae: several species, in particular L. dimidiatus
- ‘At fish-cleaning stations, cleaner fish nibble the parasites from the gills and mouths of fishes much larger than they are.’
- ‘The little helpers known as cleaner fish, which nibble parasites off larger reef fish, actually prefer to nibble their clients.’
- ‘Closer to the reef, divers will be attracted by the hive of activity - wrasses, damselfish, butterflyfish and cleaner fish dart about foraging for food among the hard corals.’
- ‘Until recently, similar experiments on cleaner fish symbioses had failed to detect parasite reduction benefits to the host fish.’
- ‘The larger fish not only refrain from devouring these small cleaner fish, but actually readily open their mouth and gill cavities so that they are able to clean.’
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