Zoology: Fish cocoons block biting bugs

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    The mucus cocoons in which some fish sleep seem to protect them from attacks by parasitic invertebrates.

    Alexandra Grutter at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, and her colleagues placed coral-reef parrotfish (Chlorurus sordidus) in bins of water with parasitic gnathiid isopods overnight. They found that only 10% of fish in cocoons were attacked by the parasites, compared with 94.4% of fish that had been teased out of their shelters.

    Secreting the mucus to prevent parasite attacks — a mechanism thought to be unique to these fish — costs around 2.5% of a fish's daily energy budget, the researchers calculate.

    Biol. Lett. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2010.0916 (2010)

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    Zoology: Fish cocoons block biting bugs. Nature 468, 479 (2010) doi:10.1038/468479d

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