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Signalling by the cleaner shrimp Periclimenes longicarpus
Signals increase the fitness of a sender by altering the behaviour of receivers. For cooperative interactions biological market theory proposes that signalling strength may be linked to supply and demand. In this context, a recent laboratory experiment demonstrated that cleaner shrimps may advertise their service to client reef fish and that the advertisement is linked to hunger levels. We investigated signalling by the cleaner shrimp Periclimenes longicarpus in the field to test more detailed predictions of biological market theory. Shrimps often clapped with their pair of claws in response to approaching clients. In line with both theory and the previous study, the probability of clapping increased when the shrimps had been food deprived and clapping shrimps were more likely to clean than nonclapping individuals. However, we found no evidence for the market theory prediction that signalling was targeted specifically to visiting client species with the option to choose other cleaning stations. Instead, shrimps signalled more frequently towards predatory clients than towards nonpredatory clients. We conclude that the signal does not serve primarily to attract the choosy clients but to convey information about identity as preconflict management to avoid predation.
cleaner shrimp, cooperative interaction, mutualism, Periclimenes longicarpus, partner control, preconflict management, signal
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