BOB HIRSHON (host):
Clean thinking fish. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
External parasites can make Australian reef fish sick. But smaller fish called “cleaner” wrasse gain nutrients by eating the parasites off of the larger fish – a win-win for both parties. Now, a study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests that reef fish which receive regular cleanings from the wrasse perform better on cognitive tests. University of Montreal biologist Sandra Binning’s team assessed the problem-solving skills of the reef fish by giving them visual discrimination tasks.
SANDRA BINNING (University of Montreal):
Individuals that did not have access to the cleaner wrasse found it much more difficult to solve this task than individuals that were getting their parasites removed.
Binning thinks the parasites may sap resources from the reef fishes’ brains. The research highlights the importance of protecting both types of fish to ensure a healthy reef. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.
Story by Susanne Bard