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Many of the jobs in the world are service-oriented. In the case of the bluestreak cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus), its ecosystem role is to provide an exceptional cleaning service to various fish. Its behaviors, characteristics, and impact are fascinating and indicative of design.
Adult bluestreak cleaner wrasses typically grow to be 4 inches (10 cm) long. Their elongated body has a brilliant blue streak with a broad black band extending from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail. Bluestreak wrasses are known to change color based on mood. For example, if the wrasse is caught on a hook and line, it may rapidly change color due to stress.
If there is one place in the ocean to look for the beautiful bluestreak cleaner wrasse, its at cleaning stations. Those stations are populated by other cleaner wrasses and many different visiting fish. When a fish arrives at the cleaning station, the cleaner wrasse greets it by performing a dance-like motion. Visiting fish can immediately recognize the wrasse's intentions by seeing its lateral stripe and its movement patterns. The “client fish” adopts a specific pose that allows access to its body surface, gills, and mouth. The wrasse then cleans the fish by consuming ectoparasites. We find it fascinating how both parties agree to the terms and both benefit.
A male bluestreak cleaner wrasse will defend a reef territory and attract females to the area. The male must catch the female's attention by performing a beautiful mating dance. The male fish practices external fertilization when the female releases her eggs into the water. Fertilized eggs become planktonic larvae that move freely with ocean currents. In this way, the bluestreak cleaner wrasses continue to provide services to other ocean creatures in a wide area.
The wrasse's service job is quite an amazing process when you think about it. An ordinary fish will stop and allow a stranger fish to remove parasites from its body, and even from its mouth. Both fish benefit from the arrangement, and God's design of life is evident.
© Daniel Lamborn. Image from BigStock.com