Remarkable Aquatic Friendships (part 1)

January 28, 2023

The ocean can be a dangerous environment for aquatic fauna in the lower regions of the food chain. It's one of the reasons why many species prefer to roam around in large, protective groups to protect themselves. But some smartly sided with marauding and preying predators. If you can’t beat them, join them! Some of these clever buggers are the zebra-patterned pilot fish. They tagged alongside sharks and have made big friends, creating one of nature’s most bizarre symbiosis. 

So what is it that makes pilot fish welcome and tolerable on the edge of a shark’s food demand without absorbing it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Well, pilot fish keep sharks free from harmful skin parasites. And not only that. Pilot fish enter sharks’ mouths to free them from food debris.

Their mutualistic relationship with a predator is as remarkable as the twinned pairing between the anemone and the Red Sea clownfish. They live in close beneficial harmony. Their interaction lies in the anemone's tentacles protecting the clownfish from predators. In turn, the clownfish’s movements within the tentacles of the anemone cause water to circulate, increasing oxygen flow. Some scholars claim that the anemone feeds on the fish's waste material.

Less known is the symbiotic relationship between coral-building polyps and microscopic algae. These algae provide hard corals with food and pigmentation through photosynthesis.

Rising sea temperatures endanger their harmony. So-called photosynthesis requires increasing seawater salinity and blocking sunlight is needed.

In the complex marine biotope of the Red Sea, The Red Sea partner goby lives together with shrimps. Gobies, paired with shrimps, is a widespread phenomenon. Gobies select shrimps for partnership. Their aquatic hierarchy dictates that the big-eyed goby act as a guardian for his visually impaired buddy. In turn, the shrimp uses its front legs as a shovel to push up sand and to distract predators when a goby is in danger. 

To be continued.