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Mutualism promotes site selection in a large marine planktivore
Armstrong, A.O.; Armstrong, A.J.; Bennett, M.B.; Richardson, A.J.; Townsend, K.A.; Everett, J.D.; Hays, G.C.; Pederson, H.; Dudgeon, C.L. (2021). Mutualism promotes site selection in a large marine planktivore. Ecol. Evol. 11(10): 5606-5623.
In: Ecology and Evolution. John Wiley & Sons: Chichester. ISSN 2045-7758; e-ISSN 2045-7758, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Authors  Top 
  • Armstrong, A.O.
  • Armstrong, A.J.
  • Bennett, M.B.
  • Richardson, A.J., more
  • Townsend, K.A.
  • Everett, J.D., more
  • Hays, G.C.
  • Pederson, H.
  • Dudgeon, C.L.

  • Mutualism is a form of symbiosis whereby both parties benefit from the relationship. An example is cleaning symbiosis, which has been observed in terrestrial and marine environments. The most recognized form of marine cleaning symbiosis is that of cleaner fishes and their clients.
  • Cleaner species set up cleaning stations on the reef, and other species seek out their services. However, it is not well understood how the presence of cleaning stations influence movements of large highly mobile species. We examined the role of cleaning stations as a driver of movement and habitat use in a mobile client species.
  • Here, we used a combination of passive acoustic telemetry and in‐water surveys to investigate cleaning station attendance by the reef manta ray Mobula alfredi. We employed a novel approach in the form of a fine‐scale acoustic receiver array set up around a known cleaning area and tagged 42 rays. Within the array, we mapped structural features, surveyed the distribution of cleaner wrasse, and observed the habitat use of the rays.
  • We found manta ray space use was significantly associated with blue‐streak cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus distribution and hard coral substrate. Cleaning interactions dominated their habitat use at this site, taking precedence over other life history traits such as feeding and courtship.
  • This study has demonstrated that cleaning symbiosis is a driver for highly mobile, and otherwise pelagic, species to visit inshore reef environments. We suggest that targeted and long‐term use of specific cleaning stations reflects manta rays having a long‐term memory and cognitive map of some shallow reef environments where quality cleaning is provided. We hypothesize that animals prefer cleaning sites in proximity to productive foraging regions.

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