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This creole-fish (Paranthias furcifer) stops and spreads its fins out, and sometimes opens its mouth and puffs out its gills to allow cleaner fishes such as this juvenile spanish hogfish (Bodianus rufus) to get at all the dead tissue and perhaps parasites. Creole fish occur in enormous numbers at Stetson Bank. They have been seen waiting in line for their turn to be cleaned! Cleaning stations are usually set up at prominent points in the landscape, such as this blackball sponge (Ircinia strobilina) by several different species of fish as well as a couple of species of shrimp. Animals documented as receiving cleanings at the Flower Gardens include many fish species, eels, and sea turtles. The Flower Gardens research program is collaborating with Dr. Mary Wicksten, professor of invertebrate zoology at Texas A&M University, studying the cleaning behavior at the Sanctuary. (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

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