One day, Patrick Seligman found an odd buddy while scuba diving at a coral off the coast of Hawaii.
A vibrant shrimp, namely a Pacific cleaner shrimp, was safely tucked away in a rock’s crevice. Seligman drew near and captured her attention.
Although they are rather widespread in Hawaii’s reefs, not all of them will engage with people, Seligman told The Dodo.
But this shrimp in particular was. and even 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.
Removing his breathing apparatus, Seligman opened his mouth — and the little shrimp swam right in.
Her target? His teeth.
Despite how unbelievable it was, this wouldn’t happen just once.
Every time Seligman went diving in the area in the days and weeks that followed, he would stop by to see the same kind little dental hygienist for a cleaning.
Sometimes he would even invite friends to get their teeth cleaned.
We went diving there once or twice a week, according to Seligman. “Stopping there for a teeth cleaning is undoubtedly enjoyable, especially with friends who have never experienced it before.”
Seligman’s teeth had never been healthier over the duration of these routine appointments, which lasted for nearly a year.
He remarked, “I think routine trips to your neighborhood cleaner shrimp are a great method to keep your tooth hygiene.”
Sadly, it couldn’t continue indefinitely.
During one dive, following a strong storm, Seligman visited his friend’s cleaning station only to find she had gone — likely having moved on to establish her cleaning practice elsewhere on the reef.
Though Seligman’s cleaning routine seems to have come to an end, his warm feelings toward the shrimp, wherever she may be, have not.
“[She] definitely feels like a familiar friend,” Seligman said. “And it’s also fun to take advantage of a naturally occurring symbiotic relationship.”