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Haplochromine Cleaner Fishes: a Taxonomic and Eco-Morphological Description of Two New Species

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

In addition to the many trophic groups of haplochromine cichlids already known from Lake Victoria, two new ones (i.e. zooplanktophages and cleaner fishes) have been discovered by the Haplochromis Ecology Survey Team which operates in the Mwanza Gulf of the Lake. The present paper deals with the taxonomic description and eco-morphology of the two (new) species of haplochromine cleaner fishes. Cleaning symbiosis has been described mainly for marine fishes. Among cichlids only juvenile Etroplus maculatus were known as (facultative) cleaners1. The cleaning behaviour of the Victoria haplochromines is deduced from their stomach contents which revealed that one species feeds mainly and the other partly on carplice and leeches. No other cleaner fishes are known to feed on these kinds of parasites which in Lake Victoria occur externally on smooth-skinned fishes (Protopterus aethiopicus, Bagrus docmac, Synodontis sp. and Clarias sp.). The preference for firmly attached, flat parasites correlates with the scraper-like teeth of the haplochromine cleaners. Virtually all other cleaner fishes have teeth with pronounced, pointed cusps and feed on mobile parasites or (elongate) parasites which are only proximally attached to their hosts.

Affiliations: 1: Haplochromis Ecology Survey Team, Mwanza, Tanzania; 2: Morphology Department, Zoologisch Laboratorium, University of Leiden, The Netherlands


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