Peacemakers should look to the cleaner fish as a role model. In the coral reef world at least, all it takes to keep an aggressive predator in check and bystanders safe is good service and a gentle rub.
Cleaner fish remove and eat the parasites off other fish, exchanging a grooming service for a tasty meal.
Researchers have previously shown that cleaners who enhance their service by touching the fish they are cleaning with their fins benefit from more cooperative clients. This is especially helpful if the customer is a predator that could attack the cleaner.
But now it seems that the calming effect of the cleaner fish's touch has wider repercussions. It makes hunters so mellow that it transforms the cleaning station into a safe haven for other fish, says Redouan Bshary at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland.
3 years ago