cleaner wrasse


: any of a genus (Labroides) of small tropical wrasses found typically on coral reefs of the Indian and Pacific oceans that clean larger fish (such as surgeonfish) of parasites and dead tissue
It has been known that a small fish called the cleaner wrasse eats parasites off larger reef fish and that it sometimes sneaks a nibble of skin mucus.T. A. Frail et al., Smithsonian, September 2011
Customers respond by suspending their normal predatory instincts and hanging almost in a trance, mouths and gills open, while the cleaner wrasses work—often swimming inside the mouths of larger fishes to find the parasites.John Vandenbeld, Nature of Australia, 1988

Word History

First Known Use

1963, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cleaner wrasse was in 1963

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Cite this Entry

“Cleaner wrasse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jun. 2024.

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