Grutter, A. S., Bejarano, Sonia ORCID:, Sun, D. and Mumby, P. J. (2022) Indirect effects of cleaner fish Labroides dimidiatus on fish grazing per reef area and benthic community structure. Marine Biology, 169 (10). DOI

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Grazing fishes farm algae, and consume algae, detritus and sediment and consequently differentially modify benthic communities. Manipulations of cleaner fish Labroides dimidiatus on reefs show that cleaners affect fish abundance differently according to grazer functional group. Accordingly, whether reefs are grazed differently, with consequences for the benthos (fouling material tile−1), was tested using reefs kept free of L. dimidiatus for 10 years compared with undisturbed control reefs. We recorded on video the grazing density (bites tile−1 h−1 reef−1) on settlement tiles and the natural benthos (roving fishes only), according to territorial algal farmer (Pomacentridae) and roving grazer (Acanthuridae, Labridae, Siganidae) functional groups, and measured the accumulation of fouling material tile−1 after 10 months. Grazing density on tiles (dominated by ‘indeterminate’ farmers, and roving ‘sediment-removing’ detritivore Ctenochaetus striatus) and the natural benthos (dominated by Ct. striatus and other grazers) was not measurably affected by cleaner presence. The composition of fouling material (dominated by detritus > turf algae > sediment > other) and organic and inorganic dry weight of material tile−1 were also not measurably affected by cleaner presence. This points to resilience of the benthic community to loss of cleaners. The likely complex interactions between cleaner fish presence, grazer abundance and mobility, and the often-opposite effects of territorial farmers and roving grazers on the benthos underscore the challenge in determining indirect effects of cleaners on benthic community structure. However, a lack of cleaners has negative ramifications for fish populations and physiology and thus their loss remains problematic for client fishes.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: PA2
Research affiliation: Affiliations > Not ZMT
Ecology > Reef Systems
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.:
ISSN: 0025-3162
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2022 11:11
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2022 11:11

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