Cleaning in pairs enhances honesty in male cleaning gobies

Soares, Marta C. ; Bshary, Redouan ; Côté, Isabelle M.

In: Behavioral Ecology, 2009, vol. 20, no. 6, p. 1343-1347

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    A recent game theoretic model akin to an iterated prisoner's dilemma explored situations in which 2 individuals (the service providers) interact simultaneously with the same service recipient (the client). If providing a dishonest service pays, then each service provider may be tempted to cheat before its partner, even if cheating causes the client's departure; however, a theoretical cooperative solution also exists where both partners should reduce cheating rates. This prediction is supported by indirect measures of cheating (i.e., inferred from client responses) by pairs of Indo-Pacific bluestreak cleaner wrasses Labroides dimidiatus. Here, we examine how inspecting in pairs affects service quality in Caribbean cleaning gobies Elacatinus spp. We measured dishonesty directly by examining the stomach contents of solitary and paired individuals and calculating the ratio of scales to ectoparasites ingested. We found that the propensity to cheat of females and males differed: females always cleaned relatively honestly, whereas males cheated less when cleaning in pairs than when cleaning alone. However, overall, the cleaning service of single and paired individuals was similar. Our results confirm that cleaners cooperate when cleaning in pairs; however, our findings differ from the specific predictions of the model and the observations on L. dimidiatus. The differences may be due to differences in mating systems and cleaner-client interactions between the 2 cleaner fish species