Punishment and partner switching cause cooperative behaviour in a cleaning mutualism

Bshary, R. and Grutter, A. S. (2005) Punishment and partner switching cause cooperative behaviour in a cleaning mutualism. Biology Letters, 1 4: 396-399. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2005.0344

Author Bshary, R.
Grutter, A. S.
Title Punishment and partner switching cause cooperative behaviour in a cleaning mutualism
Journal name Biology Letters   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1744-9561
Publication date 2005
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1098/rsbl.2005.0344
Volume 1
Issue 4
Start page 396
End page 399
Total pages 4
Place of publication London
Publisher Royal Society
Language eng
Abstract What are the mechanisms that prevent partners from cheating in potentially cooperative interactions between unrelated individuals? The cleaner fish Labroides dimidiatus and client reef fish both benefit from an interaction as long as the cleaner eats ectoparasites. However, the cleaner fish prefers some client mucus, which constitutes cheating. Field observations suggested that clients control such cheating by using punishment (chasing the cleaner) or by switching partners (fleeing from the cleaner). Here, we tested experimentally whether such client behaviours result in cooperative cleaner fish. Cleaners were allowed to feed from Plexiglas plates containing prawn items and fish flake items. A lever attached to the plates allowed us to mimic the behaviours of clients. As cleaners showed a strong preference for prawn over flakes, we taught them that eating their preferred food would cause the plate to either chase them or to flee, while feeding on flakes had no negative consequences. We found a significant shift in cleaner fish foraging behaviour towards flake feeding after six learning trials. As punishment and terminating an interaction resulted in the cleaners feeding against their preferences in our experiment, we propose that the same behaviours in clients improve the service quality of cleaners under natural conditions.
Keyword Biology
Multidisciplinary Sciences
partner choice
biological market
Labroides dimidiatus
Fish Labroides-dimidiatus
Q-Index Code C1

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) - Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
Ecology Centre Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 103 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 107 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Wed, 19 Sep 2007, 17:49:29 EST