Hawaiian green sea turtles, or honu in Hawaiian, are one of Hawaii's most beloved and admired marine animals. They are the largest and most common sea turtles on the islands, reaching up to four feet long and weighing over 300 pounds. They are also the only sea turtles that regularly bask on the shore, resting for hours on sandy beaches or rocky outcrops. They can dive up to 400 feet deep and feed on algae and seagrasses in shallow coastal waters. They can also hold their breath for up to five hours!
But Honu is not alone in their ocean home. They share their habitat with many other creatures, some of whom have a special bond with them. One of these creatures is the triggerfish or Manini in Hawaiian. Triggerfish are colorful and spiny fish growing up to 12 inches long. They have powerful jaws and teeth, allowing them to eat hard-shelled prey such as crabs, snails, and sea urchins.
A Symbiotic Relationship
Honu and Manini have a symbiotic relationship, which means they live closely together and benefit from each other. This type of relationship is called mutualism, where both organisms gain something from their interaction.
In this case, honu provides manini with food and protection, while manini provides honu with cleaning and grooming services. Let’s see how this works.
Honu Feed Manini
Honu is herbivorous, which means they eat plants. They mainly feed on algae and seagrasses on coral reefs and rocks. As they graze on these plants, they also dislodge small animals that live among them, such as worms, crustaceans, and mollusks. These animals are then eaten by manini, who follow Honu around like hungry puppies.
Manini also benefits from Honu’s large size and slow movements. Honu acts as a shield for manini from predators such as sharks and barracudas. Manini can hide under honu’s shells or swim close to them to avoid an attack.
Manini Clean Honu
Manini are not only freeloaders who take advantage of Honu’s food and protection. They also repay honu by cleaning their shells and skin from parasites, algae, and dead tissue. Manini use their sharp teeth to nibble on these unwanted guests, leaving honu with a shiny and healthy surface.
This cleaning service is very important for Honu’s health and well-being. Parasites can cause infections and diseases, while algae can reduce Honu’s speed and camouflage abilities. By removing these nuisances, Manini helps Honu stay fit and happy.
A Win-Win Situation
Honu and Manini have a win-win situation. They get something out of their relationship that helps them survive and thrive in their environment. Honu gets a free meal and surface cleaning, while Manini gets a free ride and snack.
This symbiotic relationship is beneficial not only for Honu and Manini but also for the whole ecosystem. By grazing on algae and seagrasses, Honu prevents them from overgrowing and smothering the coral reefs. By cleaning honu’s shells and skin, manini prevent them from spreading parasites and diseases to other marine animals.
Honu and Manini are examples of how undersea relationships help keep oceans healthy. They show us how nature works in harmony and balance, where every creature has a role.
Honu and manini are Hawaii’s most iconic and beloved marine species. They have a symbiotic relationship that benefits them and the whole ocean ecosystem. They show us how nature works in harmony and balance, where every creature has a role. We can learn from their example, respect their space, and observe them from a distance. Do not touch or feed them; this can harm or disrupt their natural behavior.
Honu and Manini have been living together for thousands of years. Let’s help them continue their beautiful friendship for many more years.
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