Sunfish story

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Posted by Gerry Smith on November 30, 2000 at 10:19:04:

In Reply to: Sunfish posted by JRM on November 29, 2000 at 10:18:05:

Earlier this year I had a chance to work on a research project testing the efficacy of dumping dredge spoil from the surface to cap the DDT-contaminated sediments off White Point (or White’s Point) on the Palo Verde Peninsula. My duties mostly consisted of keeping the boat in one spot while waiting for hours on the dredge vessel. During one of these waits, I saw some really interesting behavior in a couple of medium size (3 ft.) Ocean Sunfish (Mola Mola.)

The sunfish surfaced about ten feet from the research vessel, and swam in small circles for a few minutes until a seagull landed beside the circling fish. Both fish immediately rolled onto their sides and got very close to the water surface (less than an inch deep.) The gull hopped onto the exposed side of one of the sunfish and started eating parasites off the fish’s skin. About this time, another gull arrived and immediately began to “service” the other sunfish. When the first side was cleaned, the sunfish rolled the other side up and the gulls continued with the cleaning until (I assume) the parasites were gone. Then everybody swam off leaving me wondering what I had witnessed. I know that fish clean fish, I’ve had my teeth cleaned by cleaner shrimp. But I had never heard of birds cleaning sunfish. Has anyone out there seen this particular (or similar) phenom?


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