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Why is this turtle being mobbed by fish?



A few months ago while researching in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA diver Mitchell Tartt caught this turtle on camera. Although they may seem like paparazzi swarming this green sea turtle, the yellow tang here are actually doing the turtle a favor.

Over time, turtles and other marine animals accumulate algae and parasites and small invertebrates. But to the yellow tangs and other fish, those parasites are something entirely different: a meal.


These fish gather throughout Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in what are known as “cleaning stations.” When the sea turtle swims up, the fish surround it – it’s dinner time!


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. Many sea creatures depend on symbiotic relationships to survive, from sea anemones and clownfish, to corals and zooxanthellae, to remoras and sharks.


What’s your favorite example of symbiosis in the ocean?

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