New cleaner goby loves lice

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Brazilian scientists have described a new species of cleaner goby from the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago off northeastern Brazil.

Named Elacatinus phthirophagous (from the the Greek phteir, phtheiros = louse, and phagein, phagos = to eat, an allusion to this goby feeding mostly on larval, parasitic gnathiid isopods it picks from its clients) by Ivan Sazima, Alfredo Carvalho-Filho and Cristina Sazima in a recent issue of the journal Zootaxa.

The new species is a member of the E. randalli-E. evelynae clade and differs from members of this clade in having a combination of: by the following combination of characters: mouth subterminal, a pale (bright yellow in life) elliptical spot on dark snout, width of lateral pale (bright yellow in life) stripe almost equal to eye diameter (slightly narrower in live individuals), light purplish sheen (in life) extending laterally from below the eye to the tail origin, absence of a blue line (in life) from below the eye to the end of the opercular margin, multiserial teeth on the distal portion of both jaws, and males with three enlarged and recurved teeth on inner row of the dentary.

The authors note that Elacatinus phthirophagus ...is ubiquitous in the archipelago and was recorded in depths ranging 3 to 18 m. It tends cleaning stations on coral heads, sponges, and rocky substrata, with up to 15 individuals present in large stations, particularly those on sponges.

This goby was recorded to clean about 30 species of fish clients, an assorted assemblage that include large carnivores such as the shark Carcharhinus perezi and smaller ones such as the grouper Cephalopholis fulva, besides small fishes like the planktivorous damselfish Chromis multilineata and the zoobenthivorous butterflyfish Chaetodon ocellatus. Among its unusual clients is the island octopus Octopus insularis.

For more information, see the paper: Sazima, I, A Carvalho-Filho and C Sazima (2008) A new cleaner species of Elacatinus (Actinopterygii: Gobiidae) from the Southwestern Atlantic. Zootaxa 1932, pp. 27"32.