Facultative cleaning behaviour of juvenile Diplodus sargus (Sparidae) and its ecological role in marine temperate waters

José Neto, Diana Vieira, David Abecasis, Joana Ferreira Marques, Leonel Gordo, Joana I. Robalo, Regina Bispo, Marta Araújo, Frederico Almada

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The diversity and abundance of cleaner species have been frequently associated with ectoparasite load and ecological wealth of tropical fish communities. Cleaning behaviour in temperate regions has received less attention, with few labrid species being described as cleaners. The context and frequency of cleaning behaviour by juvenile white seabream Diplodus sargus are described. Surface observations from pontoons in yachting marinas were carried out based on a method used in a recent first report of cleaning behaviour by this northeastern Atlantic and Mediterranean sparid. A total of 51 h of observations revealed that these juveniles (<10 cm total length [TL]) display similar or higher cleaning rates (13.1 cleaning events per hour) compared to other temperate cleaners. The high cleaning rates, high abundance of young D. sargus on rocky shores along their distribution area and preferential targeting of adults by coastal fisheries highlight the ecological importance of D. sargus. The most common client species include grey mullets (Mugilidae), which represent 93.5% of total cleaning events registered. Regarding TL, clients were 4.6 to 6.6 times larger than cleaners. Environmental factors such as water temperature (14.0-24.0°C), wave exposure (6.0-17.0 s) and wind speed (2.0-8.0 m s-1) influence white seabream cleaning rates. Thus, a combination of factors may affect the health of temperate client fish communities. On a different perspective, these results also highlight the potential of juvenile D. sargus in integrated multitrophic aquaculture. In conclusion, white seabream cleaning behaviour plays an important role in temperate fish communities and its relevance in different habitats should be further assessed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-177
Number of pages13
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2019


  • Cleaner fish
  • Ectoparasites
  • Symbiosis
  • Temperate communities
  • White seabream


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