Characterization of the Interactions within Cleaning Stations of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and their Vertebrate Clients
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The cleaner-client symbiosis between fish and invertebrate species is an intriguing behavioral relationship that has evolved because of the benefits to both parties. Some observations of cleaning stations within tropical reefs have noted that cleaner species are less likely to take advantage of their clients by picking off live tissue when there are other fish around to witness it. Not only this, but fish that observed this behavior dispersed following the event. Because of how fascinating these interactions are, we wanted to test the validity of these observations while in our ICA in Roatán, Honduras. We collected quantitative and qualitative data of the frequency at which “flinching” behavior was observed, suggesting devious behavior by the cleaner, both in and out of the presence with other fish. We also pursued characterizing the orientations at which each species posed in order to request service as well as quantifying what species interacted most frequently. Although we couldn’t make many confident conclusions, our results inspired further potential research into both the health and abundance of the fish species in Roatán. Special thanks to Cynthia Kicklighter and Theresa Hodge for all their guidance in our pursuit.