A Morning Underwater…..

Green Moray Being Cleaned (Key Largo Reef)

Green Moray Being Cleaned (Key Largo Reef)

Last year I woefully neglected diving and have promised to do better this year. I still haven’t been out once a month as I intended, but it’s been about every six to eight weeks. The weather wasn’t great much of the week except for Wed and Thursday and those days were quite nice. We did Thursday and went to one of the shallow wrecks, then over to the great reef complex on Molasses. Hubby was diving just for fun which meant he could take his camera with him. (He can’t carry it when he’s teaching.)

For those who know what a “cleaning station” is, please bear with me because it’s something really fun for those not familiar with it. We were swimming along and Hubby saw a large green moray eel with one side against the reef and the rest of him stretched out on the sand. Eels tuck back into the rocks during the day unless they happen to be out, mostly swimming to another spot to tuck into. (They come out at night to feed). Not only was this one out, he hardly moved despite the fact Hubby was practically in it’s face. As always when photos are involved, I had a quick look and moved out of the way so I wouldn’t interfere in the shots. I thought the eel was not well since that’s often the case when they aren’t moving around. After we returned to the boat, I made a comment about it and Hubby said, “Not at all – it was a cleaning station.” Oh, how cool. Here’s the way it works and I haven’t the faintest idea how it evolved. Tiny “cleaner fish” and “cleaner shrimp” will nibble away at dead skin and parasites for larger fish. The fish – in this case the eel – remain quite still and the cleaners flit all over them to include going inside the mouth and cleaning there. In each case, the larger fish could quickly gobble them up as a snack, but don’t. Once the fish is cleaned, it moves off and resumes it’s normal routine. When you first start diving, you tend not to notice these amazing behaviors because you’re too busy dealing with your equipment, learning how to maneuver underwater, etc., After you’ve been at it for a while, you know what to look for and it’s always enjoyable to watch a cleaning station.

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