Hygienic Thresher Sharks Head to "Cleaner Stations" To Stay Healthy (Video)

thresher sharks image

Image via YouTube video screengrab

What do thresher sharks do when they feel like they need a spiff-me-up? Apparently there are specific cleaning zones they visit to allow cleaner fish to pick off parasites. BBC News reports that scientists filmed sharks off the coast of the Philippines visiting a tropical seamount that is a habitat for just such cleaner fish -- and also a popular vacation spot for the sharks. Check out a video of cleaner fish in action.

You can check out the video on BBC, though the YouTube video above shows threshers in the Philippines getting tidied up by cleaner fish as well.

The BBC writes, "The sharks repeatedly visited the station and swam slowly around, giving the fish time to delouse them."

The scientists filmed for over 1,200 hours of footage from 2004 to 2009 via a remote camera as threshers interacted with cleaner fish. They found the threshers swim in slow circles to let the fish clean them off.

The visit from sharks around these seamounts is a big tourist attraction, despite the lack of scientific understanding about their visits -- until now anyway.

The findings, published in PLoS One, state, "Cleaning associations between sharks and teleosts are poorly understood, but the observable interactions seen at this site may explain why these mainly oceanic sharks regularly venture into shallow coastal waters where they are vulnerable to disturbance from human activity."

The findings highlight two very important findings that demonstrate why it is important to protect shards near seamount habitats. First, that seamounts act not only as refuges and foraging grounds for large visiting predators such as these thresher sharks, but also they're cleaning grounds for the sharks and rays and so vital to their overall health. And second, sharks are willing to risk getting closer to humans to visit these cleaning stations, making them more vulnerable to being caught for finning.

Lead researcher, Simon Oliver from Bangor University in the UK, told BBC, "Our findings underscore the importance of protecting areas like seamounts which play an important part in [the sharks'] life strategy to maintain health and hygiene."

Follow Jaymi on Twitter for more stories like this
More on Sharks
California Proposes Ban on Sale of Shark Fins
What Is Shark Fin Soup and Why Should it Be Banned in California and Beyond?
First Census of Great White Sharks Counts Only 219 Individuals -- A Species In Peril? (Video)
Ocean Film Fest 2011: Great White Sharks Disappearing Into Soup Bowls? (Video)

Related Content on Treehugger.com