11 August 2011

The loggerhead turtle and the bluestreak cleaner wrasse

Ingrid Sinclair

The loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and the bluestreak cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) at the Two Oceans Aquarium came together recently for a “photo shoot” – well, not really, but these photos do show the wrasse hovering around the loggerhead, presumably doing some natural cleaning. According to Aquarium staff, this is rarely seen!

loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta
Photo courtesy Stefan Hurter

The loggerhead turtle – which can be visited at our I&J Predator Exhibit (you can also scuba dive in this exhibit) – is the most common turtle species in southern Africa. Adults reach a maximum mass of 125kg and measure up to 1.2m in length. Females nest on the northern beaches of KwaZulu-Natal and lay 100 to 120 eggs every 15 days during summer.

loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta
Photo courtesy Stefan Hurter

According to A Guide to Common Sea Fishes of Southern Africa by Rudy van der Elst (Struik), the “very large” wrasse family “is one of the most diversified of all fish groups, with species ranging in size from a few centimetres to three metres.”

Says A Guide to Common Sea Fishes: “A common and extremely active little reef fish, the bluestreak cleaner wrasse has a most remarkable lifestyle. It depends for its food on the ectoparasites and mucus covering other, larger fish.

“Any such fish wishing to rid its body of ectoparasites which it itself is unable to remove will passively submit to a complete and thorough scouring by the cleaner wrasse.”

loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta
Photo courtesy Stefan Hurter

Loggerheads feed predominantly on sea urchins, molluscs and hermit crabs, which they crush with their powerful jaws. Check out its amazing hooked beak in this picture!

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