A Day at the Turtle Spa

Over time, sea turtles and other marine animals accumulate algae and small parasites. But without hands to pick them off, what’s a sea turtle to do? Call in the fish! In Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) – or honu – regularly visit “turtle cleaning stations.” The sea turtle gets a relaxing day at the spa, while convict tangs (Acanthurus triostegus) and other fish get to chow down on the parasites. This relationship is just one example of a type of symbiosis in the ocean, called mutualism, in which animals of different species form relationships that benefit them both.

Photos: Nick Zachar/NOAA