What happens to coral reefs without cleaner fish? (2012–2015)

To control blood-sucking parasites, coral reef fishes rely on cleaner fish - organisms that specialise in eating parasites. We have shown cleaning affects the size, behaviour, and spatial distribution of client fish from many trophic groups. What causes such striking effects and how this affects the rest of the reef community remain unknown. Using the longest ongoing experiment of its kind, involving the large-scale removal of cleaner fish from small reefs for over 10 years, we will examine how cleaning affects client fish immunology, interactions with other fish, and the cascading effects on other reef organisms. Our study will be the first to comprehensively examine the physiological and indirect effects of cleaning behaviour.
Grant type:
ARC Discovery Projects
Funded by:
Australian Research Council