Reef Cleaning Stations | JONATHAN BIRD’S BLUE WORLD


Today on Jonathan Bird’s Blue World, Jonathan investigates cleaning stations, where fish line up to be cleaned by other fish. Hi, I’m Jonathan Bird, and
welcome to my world! ( ♪ music ) Fish never need to take a bath since they live in
water. But they do need to get cleaned. Instead of
using soap, they rely on the
assistance of another animal. It may come as
a surprise that fish even need to be
cleaned. But fish get cuts and scrapes in the course of
everyday life. The cuts get
infected and itchy. Parasites sometimes
irritate their skin too. So even a fish needs a little
skin care. That means a trip to a cleaning
station. This is a place on the reef
where one kind of animal cleans
another. Cleaners are usually small fish
or shrimp. Larger fish come in to get
cleaned, and wait for the
attention of the cleaners. Sometimes fish
even open their sensitive gills to the cleaners. Like a beauty parlor downtown,
the cleaning station is a popular place. It keeps
the cleaners busy from dawn to
dusk with a steady supply of
customers. When the cleaning station gets
busy, customers have to line up and
wait. Sometimes service can be downright slow. But patience pays off–this
grouper is finally getting its
gills cleaned. Cleaners are so important that
even top predators like
barracudas won’t eat them, but line up and
wait for service. This is mutualistic symbiosis
at its best. Not only do the larger fish get
cleaned, but the cleaners get a meal–they
eat the parasites and dead skin
from the fish they clean. And it’s an unspoken rule:
nobody eats the cleaner fish! On the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, there lives a rather
large fish called a Potato Grouper. You can
probably see the resemblance. And they’re big! This one is off to the cleaning
station. Where a cleaner wrasse picks
its nose. Talk about service! But the Grouper doesn’t really want me to watch. A moray eel doesn’t like to leave her den
during the day, so a pair of
cleaner fish come to her. But sometimes the plucking of parasites hurts a little. Anemonefish don’t dare leave
the protection of their anemone to get cleaned by cleaner fish.
And since the cleaner fish would be stung and killed by
the anemone, they can’t go to
the anemonefish. What to do? In this case, a cleaner shrimp
lives in the anemone with the
fish, ready to spring into action
whenever a fish needs cleaning. It’s not a life without
difficulty however. ( ♪ music ) But fish are not the only
animals to get cleaned. Sea turtles, manta rays and
even sharks line up for the services of
cleaners. On the reef in the Philippines,
a Thresher shark, with a tail as long as its
body, comes in from the open
ocean to circle around its favorite cleaning station. Every morning, the sharks come
here early for their cleaning. Tiny cleaner wrasses swarm
around them for a few minutes. When the sharks are finished
being cleaned, they leave the
reef and swim back to the open sea.
Nobody knows where the
Threshers go, but they will be back to this
very cleaning station tomorrow
morning to be cleaned again. A few hundred miles away on a
reef in Malaysia, a sea turtle is receiving the
attention of a surgeonfish,
which eats algae from her shell.
Surgeonfish only eat plants, and the algae on this
turtle’s shell makes a
delicious meal. And since all that algae can
slow a turtle down, the fish is
doing the turtle a favor by
removing it. Everyone gets something out of
this deal! When the tide is running at
just the right speed in Yap, Manta rays glide up to
a coral head and hover in the current, like a
runner on a treadmill. This allows them to maintain a
spot right over the cleaning station, so
they can enjoy the benefits of
cleaners as well. The cleaners go right in and
out of their gills, cleaning off parasites like
copepods. But of course the real question
is, can I go to a cleaning station?
I don’t look like a fish, but it’s worth a try. I find a
nice anemone on the island of Bonaire with a
cleaner shrimp looking bored
with no customers. Maybe my hand will look like a really pathetic fish. It doesn’t take long for this
cleaner shrimp to get right
down to business, picking over my hand. It’s
looking for dead skin and parasites. I hope there are no
parasites! It doesn’t hurt, but it does
tickle! As it turns out, humans can get a cleaning at
the cleaning station! But only
if there are no fish around wanting cleaning. So if I ever
decide to live in the ocean
permanently, I’ll never need soap again! ( ♪ music )

47 Replies to “Reef Cleaning Stations | JONATHAN BIRD’S BLUE WORLD”

  1. This teaches me a lesson: No nation can stand strong alone by itself. It needs mutual and/or allied nations.

  2. the shrimp is so cute 😂. the narration, the sound of the water and fishes are very satisfying. its like I'm watching an animated cartoon with story. love it..🤗

  3. That mantarays look like a spaceship being maintenance. With those wing's, jet propeller beneath, huge gill look like came from the future. What a great natural phenomena 😍

  4. This reminds me of a movie starring Will Smith with Anjelina Jolie in it too. It's about the life of cleaner fish like this. Forgot the movie title.

  5. Theres a place called the aquarium off statia that I visited years ago ..There I witnessed a cleaning station event that was bussling with all sorts of cool critters….From peacock flounder to wrasses, it was bumper to bumper…I even managed to get my finger nails cleaned by a banded shrimp..I smiled so big my reg fell out..What a dive!! Safe Diving jon..

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