Teenager Apes Fish Behavior to Take Advantage of “Cleaner” Shrimp


Russel Laman was able to skip a visit to the dentist when he decided to let a crew of cleaner shrimp give him a checkup. According to the New York Daily News, Laman received the impromptu cleaning during a scuba diving trip in Bali, Indonesia with his father Tim Laman.

“It felt like tiny little dentists picking away at my teeth and scuttling around my mouth, it tickled a little but not too badly,” Russell Laman said.

The strange incident occurred after the Lamans observed a number of fish clustered around a “cleaning station” populated by shrimp. Much like cleaner wrasse, many species of shrimp engage in a mutually-beneficial “cleaning” symbiosis. A number of the tiny crustaceans would gather on a coral head, known as cleaning stations, and try to entice finned clients. The shrimp then work their way into the mouths of every new patient and look for tasty parasites or other treats lodged between the teeth of the fish. Shrimp are much more shy with humans, though, and it takes a specific technique to lure them in.

“I observed that the shrimp are always keeping an eye on the mouth of the fish and as soon as it starts to close they shoot out,” the teen said. “I do the same thing as the fish, when I start to run out of air I slowly close my mouth and the shrimp get out of there.”

Tim Laman says it is an old trick known to many divers, but it was remarkable that his son could master it at such a young age.

“It really is pretty amazing that these little shrimp immediately recognize a human mouth as analogous to a fish mouth and go in looking for bits of food,” said Tim Laman. “It takes a relaxed diver to take out his regulator at 23 meters [75 feet] deep and present your mouth wide open to some shrimp.”

A seven-year diving veteran, the teen has been exploring underwater marvels for the better half of his life. Although it was the first time Russel Laman bared his pearly whites to the scrutiny of shrimp, he passed with a clean bill of health. The shrimp could apparently find no parasites.

The video can be seen below:


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