Friday, April 19, 2013

A Trip to Moorea via the Gates Lab - and cheating cleaner wrasses

A coral symbiome
Every so often, I take a wander through the lab pages of the HIMB faculty to see what folks are up to. Today I browsed through the web pages of Dr. Ruth Gates' lab. Their work relates to how corals survive in a very stressful world, and despite the degradation and destruction that we see on reefs worldwide, Dr. Gates and crew always seem to stay positive and just don't give up (see the quote from their site below). I also recently referred to the Gates lab via our post on the beautiful confocal microscope image to the right (Corals under the confocal).

However, it is Friday afternoon and what struck me today, in a somewhat trivial fashion I admit, was the wonderful range of areas that the Gates lab scientists work in - from Hawaii, to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, to the Virgin Islands, to American Samoa, Taiwan and, of course Tahiti. Ah, I thought, I would like to be in Tahiti right now, maybe Mo'orea.
File:DSC00031 French Polynésia Mooréa Island (8044046451).jpg
Image D. Julie/ WikiCommons 
So I went to their Tahiti link, the Moorea Coral Reef Long-Term Research Site, checked on some of the coral work and then was suckered off to an article on fish which had only a minimal relation to the Gates lab work  (the fish in the article live on coral reefs).

The article was on cheating cleaner wrasses and the ornate butterflyfish they clean. . .you should check it out.
Labroides dimidiatus
Bluestreak cleaner wrasse - From Fish Base - Image J.E. Randall
It is a great little piece, all about biological market theory with butterflyfishes receiving "services" from cleaner wrasses (they get cleaned of parasites).  Cleaner wrasses that cheat on the services - they take bites of more than just the parasites, or refuse to clean the butterflyfish and ignore them. Then you have butterflyfishes going to other cleaner wrasses for further cleaning, but still getting cheated and butterflyfishes chasing irritating cleaner wrasses in retaliation. Most entertaining, see: CUSTOMER SERVICE IN CLEANERFISH.

Chaetodon ornatissimus
Ornate butterflyfish - from Fishbase, image J.E. Randall
Then maybe head back to the Gates lab for a look at how researchers are working to understand and conserve our reefs, technical but wonderful.

From the Gates Lab Web site: "Although the future looks bleak, some corals survive, and even thrive in the same conditions that rapidly kill others. Our group seeks to better understand the biological underpinnings of this variability by defining traits that associate with environmental sensitivity and resistance in corals, and with the resilience (capacity to buffer stress) of reefs." Check out the lab brochure: Coral Functional Biology and Symbiosis



No comments:

Post a Comment