Where Australia's sharks go to stay looking sharp
Wednesday 10 March 2010
A pampering session at the beauty salon always works wonders for morale – not just for humans, but also for sharks and manta ray fish. Australian scientists have discovered that these large marine creatures regularly congregate at certain spots on the Great Barrier Reef to be groomed by smaller fish.
The sharks and rays park themselves in reef "salons", where fish that would normally be their prey swarm all over them, removing dead and diseased tissue, mucus, scales and ectoparasites, according to a research team from Queensland's James Cook University.
The larger creatures could be forgiven for snacking on the odd fish while kicking back and relaxing, but that never happens, say the scientists, who set up cameras at several sites on the Great Barrier Reef and also at Osprey Reef, just off Cairns in Queensland.
On the contrary, the smaller fish derive nutrition from the detritus that they remove from their "clients". Over five months the team, from the university's School of Marine and Tropical Biology, observed sharks and rays gathering frequently for a "clean, wax and polish".
The grooming sessions sometimes lasted several hours, with the smaller fish carrying out cleaning duties on the predators almost continuously.
Professor Michael Kingsford, one of the scientists, said: "The manta rays would cease all movement of their fins while in the cleaning stations. Their gills were often flared and mouths open, but never wide enough to suggest feeding. Several 'cleaner' fish would then migrate upwards towards the animal and begin cleaning."
Sharks, meanwhile, would hold themselves in an almost vertical position while the smaller fish went to work, or would "casually swim over the site" in order to receive attention. "Depending on the strength of the current, each interaction would last anywhere between five and 10 seconds before the client would move away from the station and the cleaners would immediately retreat to the reef," Professor Kingsford said.
"The shark clients – in most cases – would swim back around into the current and repeat the process until cleaning had ceased." He said that while cameras had captured more than 1,100 sharks at Osprey Reef, "no feeding or chasing was observed". Both sides benefit, he said, with "the larger creatures cleansed ... and the smaller fish gaining a source of nutrition."
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 3 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 4 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
- 5 Yazidi sex slaves undergoing surgery to 'restore virginity' after being raped by Isis militants
General Election 2015: Tories sack candidate who said she would never support 'the Jew' Ed Miliband
The four utterly contradictory polls that tell the story of this election and why it is pointless trying to predict the outcome
9/11: Iranian General accuses US of organising September 11 terror attacks
General Election 2015: Prospect of Labour-SNP coalition makes one in four voters less likely to support Ed Miliband, says survey
General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
£65K - £75K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Creative Director...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful IT reseller bas...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the Country's leading di...
£10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...