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Explore this amazing group of crustaceans that operate ‘cleaning stations’ whereby fish come to be cleared of external parasites.
This interesting group of small benthic decapod crustaceans includes cleaner shrimp and boxer shrimp, and belongs to the Infraorder Stenopodidea. There are only ten species in two families in Australian waters, with the Banded Coral Shrimp always the most common and conspicuous. Stenopodids are easily confused with shrimps or prawns, but unlike species in either of those groups, these crustaceans have a greatly enlarged third pair of legs. In the wild, stenopodids like the Banded Coral Shrimp operate 'cleaning stations' in which they remove external parasites from fish.
The term ‘cleaner shrimp’ refers to types of shrimp that remove parasites from various marine fish species.
Cleaner shrimp don’t go searching for clients. Instead, they remain at a particular spot (station) and advertise their services by performing a side-to-side motion known as a ‘rocking dance’. This attracts potential client fish for parasite removal.
When cleaning fish, cleaner shrimp remove and consume dead tissue, mucus, and a variety of different parasites, including flatworms and isopods (sea lice).
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