Patrick Seligman met an odd buddy one day while diving along a coral off the coast of Hawaii.
A brightly colored Pacific cleaner shrimp was tucked away in a corner of a rock. Her attention was drawn to Seligman as he approached.
Seligman told The Dodo that while they are plentiful in Hawaii’s reefs, “not all of them are willing to contact with humans.”
However, this particular shrimp was. And then there’s some more.
Cleaner shrimp are so named for their eagerness to nibble parasites and dead skin off of other animals who come to their undersea “cleaning stations.” In fact, the day Seligman first arrived, the shrimp had just finished up with a client: a visiting eel.
Lucky for Seligman, the shrimp evidently had a free slot in her schedule for him after that.
Seligman opened his lips after removing his breathing apparatus — and the tiny shrimp swam right in.
Her target? His teeth.
Incredible as it was, this wouldn’t be a one-time thing.
Over the weeks and months that followed, whenever Seligman would go diving near that spot, he’d drop in for a cleaning from the same helpful little dental hygienist.
He’d sometimes even bring companions to have their teeth tidied up, too.
“We dove there about once or twice a week,” Seligman said. “It’s definitely fun to stop there for the teeth cleaning, especially with friends who had never seen it before.”
These regular visits lasted for about a year — throughout which Seligman’s teeth had never been healthier.
“I think frequent visits to your local cleaner shrimp are an excellent way to maintain your dental hygiene,” he said.
Sadly, though, it couldn’t last forever.
Seligman returned his friend’s cleaning station following a heavy storm on one dive only to discover she had left — most likely to establish her cleaning practice elsewhere on the reef.
While Seligman’s cleaning ritual appears to be over, his affection for the shrimp, wherever she may be, has not.
“[She] clearly has the vibe of an familiar friend,” Seligman stated. “Plus, it’s enjoyable to exploit a naturally occurring symbiotic relationship.”
h/t: The DoDo