Faculté des sciences

Experimental evidence that partner choice is a driving force in the payoff distribution among cooperators or mutualists : the cleaner fish case

Bshary, Redouan ; Grutter, Alexandra S.

In: Ecology Letters, 2002, vol. 5, p. 130-136

Supply and demand largely determine the price of goods on human markets. It has been proposed that in animals, similar forces influence the payoff distribution between trading partners in sexual selection, intraspecific cooperation and interspecific mutualism. Here we present the first experimental evidence supporting biological market theory in a study on cleaner fish, Labroides dimidiatus.... More

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    Summary
    Supply and demand largely determine the price of goods on human markets. It has been proposed that in animals, similar forces influence the payoff distribution between trading partners in sexual selection, intraspecific cooperation and interspecific mutualism. Here we present the first experimental evidence supporting biological market theory in a study on cleaner fish, Labroides dimidiatus. Cleaners interact with two classes of clients: choosy client species with access to several cleaners usually do not queue for service and do not return if ignored, while resident client species with access to only one cleaning station do queue or return. We used plexiglas plates with equal amounts of food to simulate these behaviours of the two client classes. Cleaners soon inspected 'choosy' plates before 'resident' plates. This supports previous field observations that suggest that client species with access to several cleaners exert choice to receive better (immediate) service.