CCNet 55/2002 - 30 April 2002

"Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing the Charles Pete Conrad
Astronomy Award Act. This act is intended to encourage amateur astronomers
to discover new and attract previously identified asteroids and other
heavenly bodies, particularly those that threaten a close approach to
the Earth. This act is named after the legendary pilot, astronomer and space
entrepreneur, Pete Conrad, who I was honored to know. He was a constituent
of mine as well. Unfortunately, he passed away after a tragic
motorcycle accident just last year. Charles Pete Conrad made history and
today in his honor and in his memory I am introducing a bill that could
help protect the United States of America and, yes, the entire world. Pete
Conrad more than anything else was a patriot who loved his country and felt
that space would provide peace and prosperity for all of human kind."
--Dana Rohrabacher, House of Representatives, 25 April 2002

    House of Representatives - April 25, 2002)

    New Scientist, 29 April 2002

    Ron Baalke <>

    ADVERTISER (AUSTRALIA) 29th April 2002

    Reiner M. Stoss <>

    Andrew Yee <>


    Yvan Dutil <>

    Phillip Clapham <

     Ananova, 30 April 2002


Sponsor: Rep Rohrabacher, Dana  (introduced 4/25/2002)
Latest Major Action: 4/25/2002 Referred to House committee. Latest
Status: Referred to the House Committee on House Administration.

Title: To authorize the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution to
establish an awards program in honor of Charles "Pete" Conrad, astronaut and
space scientist, for recognizing the discoveries made by amateur   nomers of
asteroids with near-Earth orbit trajectories.

PETE CONRAD AWARDS BILL -- (House of Representatives - April 25, 2002)
[Page: H1669]  GPO's PDF

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Simpson). Under a previous order of the House,
the gentleman from California (Mr. Rohrabacher) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. ROHRABACHER. Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing the Charles Pete Conrad
Astronomy Award Act. This act is intended to encourage amateur astronomers
to discover new and attract previously identified asteroids and other
heavenly bodies, particularly those that threaten a close approach to the
Earth. This act is named after the legendary pilot, astronomer and space
entrepreneur, Pete Conrad, who I was honored to know. He was a constituent
of mine as well. Unfortunately, he passed away after a tragic motorcycle
accident just last year. Charles Pete Conrad made history and today in his
honor and in his memory I am introducing a bill that could help protect the
United States of America and, yes, the entire world.

Pete Conrad more than anything else was a patriot who loved his country and
felt that space would provide peace and prosperity for all of human kind.
This act contains three categories of awards.

The first category is an award for the amateur astronomer who discovers the
largest astroid crossing in near-Earth orbit.

The second category, an award to an amateur astronomer for discovering
asteroids using information derived from professional sources and locating
newly discovered asteroids.

The third category, an award for those who provide the greatest service to
update Minor Planet Center's catalog of known astroids.

Let me just state that for those people who believe that there is no threat
and that we live in a world today where those movies that talked about
astroids colliding with the world and the threat that it posed, that that is
all science fiction, I have got bad news for them. It is not science

There are numerous examples of astroids and comets in the last few years
that have come very near to the world and not been undetected until the last
minute or even after they pass by the world. One of them was coming in from
the Sun and was not seen until after it passed the Earth's orbit.

If any of these astroids or comets would have hit the Earth, it would have
been a catastrophic occasion, perhaps killing hundreds of millions of
people. Perhaps in one case in the past, millions of years ago, that is
perhaps what eliminated the dinosaur life on our planet.

The following is a list of examples of recently observed asteroids:

* An asteroid about 300 meters in size crossed a near-Earth orbit about
500,000 miles from our planet in October of last year.

* An asteroid about the size of three football fields made its closest
approach to the Earth (roughly the same distance: twice the Moon's distance
from the Earth) on January 7, 2002.

* An asteroid reportedly the size of an 18-story building on a close
approach to Earth (just a bit farther out than the Moon) was observed on
March 8.

The disturbing point about this asteroid is that it was seen from Earth
again only after it had moved out of the glare of the Sun and into the night
sky on March 12.

For each nearby asteroid that is spotted there are several that pass
entirely unnoticed.

Some researchers estimated that there are roughly 25 asteroids, roughly the
size of the one observed on March 12, cross a near-Earth orbit that is
closer than the Moon. Astronomers believe that the number of undiscovered
asteroids far exceeds the known list currently available to the scientific

We need to know if there is a threat coming at the world. And having our
young people, giving them awards, having amateur astronomers look into the
sky to help us find those objects is something that we are mobilizing the
people to help us discover that possible threat. If we see something coming
at us that is years away, then we can handle that. We can do something about
it. If we do not find out until a mere month or two beforehand, the Earth
could be in real danger.

I was the chairman of a hearing in which we had the experts testify on this
issue; and one expert said, Congressman, you do not have to worry about
that. There is about as much chance of a comet hitting the Earth as it is of
you going to Las Vegas and getting a royal straight flush.
And I said, Oh, my gosh. I did get a royal straight flush once. I remember
that happening.

So this is a real threat, but it is not something we have to fear. It is
something we have to look at and try to find a way to identify threats. It
is called Home Planet Defense. We need to pay some attention to it; and then
if an asteroid does threaten us, we will be able to identify it far in
advance and deter it from its path so it would not hurt the people of the

This is the purpose of this Pete Conrad bill. We want to get our young
people more interested in space and science and mathematics. This bill is a
way to do it. The awards will be administered by the Smithsonian
Institution, and I am asking all of my colleagues to join me in
co-sponsoring the Pete Conrad Award bill because this bill will do a great
deal in bringing to our young people the realities of science and America's
space program. Let us get them off of these electronic games and get them
into the real world and the real world may well be dealing with threats
coming to us from outer space from great distances away, asteroids and
comets that we should know about.

Again, I ask my colleagues to join me in co-sponsoring the Charles Pete
Conrad Astronomy Award Act, and I look forward to working with my colleagues
and seeing that we get young Americans looking up just like Pete Conrad,
always looking up and getting involved.


>From New Scientist, 29 April 2002
Reports of the demise of NASA's space junk monitoring programme appear to
have been premature. A spokesman has told New Scientist that the space
agency will spend about $3 million next year to continue observing small
orbital debris.

NASA is also negotiating with the US National Science Foundation about how
to fund radar observations that pinpoint asteroid orbits and study their

Massive overruns in building the International Space Station have caused an
avalanche of budgetary troubles within NASA. Although both the programmes
are tiny in financial terms, they are important and appear to have been
caught in the crunch.

The US Space Command tracks all space debris larger than 10 centimetres with
military radars. Only NASA monitors smaller objects, which cannot be tracked
individually but still pose a serious threat. Fast-moving debris larger than
one centimetre could destroy or seriously damage a spacecraft.

NASA's programme, based at the Johnson Space Center, has developed
guidelines to prevent explosions of spent rocket boosters. According to
NASA, more than 100,000 fragments are between one and 10 cm, with tens of
millions of smaller pieces also in orbit.

The future of the NASA's orbital debris program was in doubt because its $3m
annual budget comes from two tightly squeezed programs - the space shuttle
and the International Space Station. NASA now has agreed to continue funding
it at about the same level next year, although details remain to be worked

Pinpointing orbits

Details also remain to be worked out for funding radar observations of
asteroids with the 300-metre Arecibo radio telescope and smaller antennas at
the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California.

Radar can measure an asteroid's distance within 10 metres and its velocity
to a millimetre per second, says Steve Ostro of the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory. That data can increase the precision of calculating orbits by
1000 times, allowing far better assessment of whether the asteroids threaten

NASA had proposed cutting the Arecibo budget, but in December 2001 agreed to
spend $400,000 continue to operate the radar for a year. NASA officials
believe NSF should pay to run the radar facilities, says a spokesman, but
NASA will now continue to budget about half a million dollars a year for
research with the radars.

The two agencies are discussing the issue; observers expect a resolution
within weeks.
Jeff Hecht

Copyright 2002, New Scientist


>From Ron Baalke <>

Mystery Meteorite with a Molten Past
Sky & Telescope News Brief
April 25, 2002

Planetary scientists suspect that many primordial asteroids must have grown
large enough to melt completely, yielding iron-rich cores and silicate
crusts before being shattered to pieces. After
all, the iron meteorites reaching Earth comprise dozens of unique
compositional types. Yet, among the thousands of known meteorites, only a
relative handful consist of basalt, the igneous rock type that would be most
common in those asteroidal crusts - and until recently all of them seemed to
have come from a single source, 4 Vesta. In the April 12th issue of Science,
Akira Yamaguchi (National Institute of Polar Research, Tokyo) and nine colleagues argue that
a 40-gram stone called Northwest Africa 011 is a basaltic meteorite entirely
unlike those from Vesta. Its parent body is unknown; one candidate is 1459
Magnya, an outer-belt object that was found to have a basalt spectrum two
years ago. Still, though lacking a pedigree,  NWA 011 is a significant find.
As asteroid expert Richard P. Binzel (MIT) explains, "Yamaguchi's results
(and those for 1459 Magnya) are the  'eureka' that complement what the iron
meteorites have been telling us:  there must have been other Vestas out

Online access to Science is restricted, but Yamaguchi's abstract can be
found at:


A New Source of Basaltic Meteorites Inferred from Northwest Africa 011 

  Akira Yamaguchi,[12*] Robert N. Clayton,[3] Toshiko K. Mayeda,[3]
  Mitsuru Ebihara,[4] Yasuji Oura,[4] Yayoi N. Miura,[5] Hiroshi Haramura,[1]
  Keiji Misawa,[12] Hideyasu Kojima,[12] Keisuke Nagao[6]

  Eucrites are a class of basaltic meteorites that share common
  mineralogical, isotopic, and chemical properties and are thought to
  have been derived from the same parent body, possibly asteroid 4 Vesta.
  The texture, mineralogy, and noble gas data of the recently
  recovered meteorite, Northwest Africa (NWA) 011, are similar to those
  of basaltic eucrites. However, the oxygen isotopic composition of
  NWA011 is different from that of other eucrites, indicating that NWA011
  may be derived from a different parent body. The presence of basaltic
  meteorites with variable oxygen isotopic composition suggests the
  occurrence of multiple basaltic meteorite parent bodies, perhaps
  similar to 4 Vesta, in the early solar system.

  1 Antarctic Meteorite Research Center, National Institute of Polar
    Research, Tokyo 173-8515, Japan.
  2 The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Tokyo 173-8515, Japan.
  3 Enrico Fermi Institute, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
  4 Department of Chemistry, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Hachioji,
    Tokyo 192-0397, Japan.
  5 Earthquake Research Institute, University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-0032, Japan.
  6 Laboratory for Earthquake Chemistry, University of Tokyo, Tokyo
    113-0033, Japan.

  *   To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:


>From ADVERTISER (AUSTRALIA) 29th April 2002

A BLAZING streak across the late-afternoon sky on Friday presented Hayden
Slade with a stellar photographic opportunity.

Mr Slade, 27, was parked outside a fast food restaurant at Tea Tree Gully
enjoying a chicken burger about 5.45pm when he noticed the meteor.

"I didn't know what it was, but I thought it was pretty amazing," he said.
"I said to my workmate jokingly `we'll know if it hits the earth'."

Mr Slade, of Forestville, then remembered there was a digital camera in the
truck and started taking snaps as it hurtled across the sky. The bright
trail remained visible for several minutes before disappearing from sight to
the west, over the sea, Mr Slade said.

While not a keen stargazer, Mr Slade said the object had sparked his

"Something like that is pretty interesting," he said.

"I made a few calls to try to find out what it was, but no one seemed to
know anything much and I don't know what happened to it."

Astronomical Society of SA technical information officer Tony Beresford said
no one had reported a sighting but the object was almost certainly a meteor
that would have burned up as it passed through the atmosphere.

Dr Beresford said on average bright meteors were seen monthly around the

"They are quite common."

Meteors were either solid lumps that had broken off from asteroids or pieces
of a comet that were similar to cigarette ash in texture, Dr Beresford said.

"The vast majority are bits of comet stuff - fluffy bits of dust which don't
have a hope of surviving the atmosphere," he said.
Copyright 2002, Advertiser


>From Reiner M. Stoss <>

Dear minor planet and comet observers!

The "Meeting on Asteroids and Comets in Europe", MACE 2002, is just three
weeks away. If you are planning to attend and have not yet "registered",
please do so now. For this you just have to write an email to:

with the following details

First name:
Last name:
Comments and suggestions:

Please be reminded that the deadline for abstract submission is just a few
days away (April 30th).

For details please visit:

There is still space left for oral and poster presentations so please
consider presenting your observatory/project/work with a contribution at
this meeting.

Meeting website:

Looking forward to hear from you and seeing you in Visnjan!

Yours sincerely,
Korado Korlevic
on behalf of the SOC and LOC


>From Andrew Yee <>

Steve Roy
Media Relations Department
Marshall Space Flight Center
Huntsville, AL
(256) 544-0034

For Release: April 29, 2002

Release: N02-002
'Forecasting' space weather

NASA, university scientists see prediction of solar storms in future

Much like tornado watchers look to the skies for clues that a twister is
forming, NASA and university scientists are watching the Sun in an effort to
better predict space weather -- blasts of particles from the Sun that impact
the magnetosphere, the magnetic bubble around the Earth.

Based at the National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) in
Huntsville, Ala., this research unites scientists from NASA's Marshall Space
Flight Center in Huntsville and the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Like severe weather on Earth, severe space weather can be costly.

When massive solar explosions, known as coronal mass ejections, blast
through the Sun's outer atmosphere and plow toward Earth at speeds of
thousands of miles per second, the resulting effects can be harmful to
communication satellites and astronauts outside the Earth's
magnetosphere. On the ground, the magnetic storm wrought by these solar
particles can knock out electric power.

A study by scientists at the National Space Science and Technology Center,
published in the April 20 issue of the "The Astrophysical Journal," is
offering new insight on these solar storms and how to better predict them.

One of the authors, Dr. David Falconer, a research associate from the
University of Alabama in Huntsville, compares potential solar-storm
prediction techniques to methods used for predicting thunderstorms and
tornadoes on Earth.

"When we look up at clouds, we can identify those with the potential to
bring severe weather," he explains. "If the sky is clear, or filled with
hazy Cirrus clouds, there is a low likelihood of severe weather. On the
other hand, we can use special equipment to observe the surface of the Sun,
enabling us to glean clues on what severe space weather might be forming."

Fortunately, people on Earth aren't without protection from space weather.
"Our planet's magnetosphere protects us from the worst of a solar storm's
fury," says NSSTC solar scientist Dr. Ron Moore of the Marshall Center.

Filled by charged particles trapped in Earth's magnetic field, the spherical
comet-shaped magnetosphere extends out 40,000 miles from Earth's surface in
the sunward direction and more in other directions. "But when severe
particle streams slam against the magnetosphere, we
see the effects," Moore adds.

This NSSTC research builds on the 1999 "S marks the spot" finding, made by
researchers at Montana State University-Bozeman and the Solar Physics
Research Corporation in Tucson. They discovered that regions of the Sun with
an obvious global twist to the magnetic fields are more likely to erupt in a
coronal mass ejection than regions with no discernable global twist.

In short, these ejections occur when solar magnetic field lines snake around
each other, forming the letter "S". Usually, they go past each other. But if
they connect, it's like a short circuit.The mid-section breaks loose and
drives out a coronal mass ejection.

Using the Solar Vector Magnetograph, a solar-observation facility at the
Marshall Center, NSSTC scientists monitored active areas of strong magnetic
fields on the Sun, measuring the amount of magnetic energy stored in a

"Whereas a visible "S"-shaped structure in a magnetic region is only a
qualitative indicator of substantial stored magnetic energy, the vector
magnetograph gives a quantitative indicator, telling which of two "S"-shaped
regions has the greater energy," says Moore.

This led NSSTC scientists to identify a correlation between stored energy
and coronal mass ejections. Areas with high levels of magnetic energy were
more likely to produce solar eruptions than areas with low levels.

"In seeking predictions of solar activity, zero global nonpotentiality is
the space-weather version of a clear sky on Earth," Falconer says. "Regions
with high global nonpotentiality have a large store of free magnetic energy
available for producing coronal mass ejections."

With improvements in solar-storm prediction methods, scientists are looking
to the future, when new advancements may offer the opportunity to issue
solar-weather "watches," similar to tornado watches.

"A tornado watch indicates the conditions are favorable for the formation of
a tornado, while a tornado warning indicates a tornado has already been
sighted," Falconer explains. "Right now, we're learning what signs to look
for as indicators of potential severe space weather."

This advance warning will give people on Earth more time to prepare by
placing satellites in a safe configuration, planning the best time for
astronaut space walks or rocket launches, and implementing contingency plans
to deal with any power outages.

In addition to Falconer and Moore, solar scientist Dr. Allen Gary of the
Marshall Center also co-authored the study. The three researchers are part
of the NSSTC solar physics group, which develops instruments for measuring
the magnetic field on the Sun. With these instruments, the group studies the
origin, structure and evolution of the solar magnetic field and the impact
it has on Earth's space environment.

A collaboration that enables scientists, engineers and educators to share
research and other facilities, the NSSTC is a partnership with the Marshall
Center, Alabama universities and federal agencies. It focuses on space
science, Earth sciences, materials science, biotechnology, propulsion,
information technology and optics.

The NASA role in this solar physics research project is led by the Marshall
Space Flight Center for the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters in
Washington, D.C.

[NOTE: Images supporting this release are available at

A QuickTime movie is available at]


On April 6, The Guardian published an open letter signed by 120 University
professors (90 from the UK) calling for a moratorium on cultural and
research links with Israel at a European or national level "unless and until
Israel abides by UN resolutions and opens serious peace negotiations with
the Palestinians, along the lines proposed in many peace plans..."

We, the undersigned, hereby unequivocally condemn this call for a European
boycott of research and cultural links with Israel.

Whereas we hold diverse political views with respect to the past and current
policies of the Israeli government, and whereas we recognize the right of
individuals and concerned citizens in Israel and abroad, to openly express
their opinions regarding the tragic and devastating
events of recent months, we are united in our condemnation of this
unprecendented call by European scholars to suspend European-Israeli
academic and cultural ties.

Our reasons for opposing the proposed initiative include:

1. A moratorium on scientific and cultural cooperation with any group of
scholars is diametrically opposed to the concept of freedom in the conduct
of science, one of the most basic principles of scientific ethics.

2. Restricting academic ties between European and Israeli scholars to
advance particular political goals diminishes the spirit of open
collaborative scientific scholarship. Science and research become hostages
to political agendas or moral outrage and the human value of both endeavors
is belittled.

3. The proposed boycott is an improper and immoral act of collective
punishment, unworthy of colleagues in European academic communities.

4. A unilateral boycott of Israeli academics unfairly identifies Israel as
the only party responsible for the violent shift in Israeli-Palestinian
relations and ignores ongoing attacks against innocent Israeli citizens.
Such an one-sided perspective is contrary to academic standards of

5. Many European-funded programs have explicitly aimed at enhancing
scientific cooperation between Israelis, Palestinians and Arab scholars.
Joint research projects -- for example, in water resource management, cancer
treatment, desalination, and regional disease eradication -- have continued
undeterred throughout the months of the Intifada. Other European programs
have provided important frameworks for Middle East scholars to meet in
"neutral" settings outside the region, to discuss academic topics of mutual
interest, and to build informal interpersonal
ties, thus helping to counter years of accumulated misunderstanding and
animosity. Freezing Israeli access to, and participation in, such programs
would neither end the violence nor promote meaningful dialogue. It would
damage these important frameworks and undermine the benefits to research.

6. Democratic academic communities around the world, especially in Israel,
consist of individuals who openly question and challenge the world-views of
governments and their representatives. To boycott Israeli academics would
endanger the democratic values and respect for human rights this
community works hard to foster. The moratorium would castigate the very
people whose contributions are so needed during these troubled times.

In short, we think that the call to place a moratorium on scientific and
cultural relations between Israel and Europe diminishes our ability and
common responsibility to promote collaboration between the two peoples and
to further the cause of knowledge, progress and peace.

To support this protest, please click here:

As of April 24, 2002 we have received 5000 signatories. 



>From Yvan Dutil <>

Dear Beeny,

I would like to comment about when it is the appropriate time to act against
an incoming asteroid. Very basic physics tells you the effort you have to
put in order to deflect an asteroid is inversely proportional to the square
of time left before impact and proportional to its mass. Cleary you have to
start to work on the problem as soon as practical.

The case of 1950 DA is an extreme example of this effect where thermal
behaviour of the asteroid is significant enough to save or doom  Earth.
Sagan and Ostro wrote a paper about this many years ago [1]. Typical
timescale for deflection of larger asteroid were calculated in decades for
foreseeable technology. However, Tunguska like impactors can be dealt with
on very short notice since, for those objects, deflection and destruction is almost equivalent in
term of energy. In that case simply crashing a copper " la" Deep Impact
would do the job. In that case, you are limited by the production time of
the interceptor.

Decision for deflection should be done at the moment that error on a
misdianogstic is low enough. In practice this means avoiding crying wolf all
the time. If an asteroid has 1% of the chance of hitting the Earth, this
means that you would need to defect 100 asteroids on average to get the good
one. Clearly you have to wait until the asteroid has a probability of
hitting the Earth near to one (ex: 10%) before taking the decision of
deflection. In consequence, the obvious first step in the detection process
is to gather more observations.

Since space science is progressing independentely of NEO reasearch, it is
pointless to plan a deflection centuries from now. However, if the impact of
a medium size asteroid is detected within 50 years taking account of  time
needed to prepared the deflection and to do the preliminary reconnaissance,
starting to work on the problem now would be a good idea.

These comments are only valid for asteroids, as long-period comets do not
provide enough warning time to allow any kind of deflection for a predictable future.


Yvan Dutil

[1] Sagan, C.; Ostro, S. J. "Dangers of Asteroid Deflection", NATURE V.368,
NO. 6471, P. 501, 1994


>From Phillip Clapham <

I wonder if your CCNet contributor, Alastair McBeath, would like to comment
on the Annals of the Chosun Dynasty available on the Internet from . This is a transcript of the whole
article and appears to contradict many of the things McBeath has cast doubt
on, mainly the ability of meteors to affect the climate, to cause fires on
the ground, to generate heat storms, dust clouds and seismic waves etc. In
addition, according to Yi Tae-jin they also caused Venus to appear  in
daylight hours, presumably because of the dust accumulating in the
atmosphere, and a reduced brightness of the Sun etc. This very much seems to
me to indicate the so called Venus Tablets from Babylonia, attributed to the
reign of Ammisaduga of Dynasty One at Babylon, actually concern the
appearances of Venus during a phase of heightened meteoric activity, the
sort of thing delineated in dendrochronology around 1628-5BC. These dates,
as most of us are aware, have been tied in with the eruption of the Thera
volcano in the Aegean. Perhaps a similar situation could be produced by a
volcano ? However, historians have had extreme difficulty in moving
historical chronology to fit an early date for Thera so perhaps we should
think in terms of meteoric activity as responsible for the low growth tree
rings of those years. This is the main thrust of Yi Tae-jin, that meteoric
activity was responsible for the Little Ice Age. In addition, a point
arising from a guarded acceptance of this possibility would be the
likelihood that Mike Baillie was right and the Shang Dynasty in China can be
dated fairly conclusively as situated between 1628-5BC and the 1159-45BC
phase of very low growth tree rings, accompanied by records that seem to
record actual meteoric activity. Indeed, Mike Baillie went further and
located New Kingdom Egypt and the Hyksos within the same basic time bracket.
At the end of the New Kingdom, in late dynasty 19, we have an actual
Egyptian record of an impact event that affected a wide swathe of people
from northern Africa (ancient Libya), across the Aegean (the end of the
Mycenaean Era), and Anatolia (the sudden demise of the Hittites). The
situation is even better in respect of meteoric activity as an agent of site
destructions, attributed usually to intense heat, or by fire. They have been
dated in a fairly condense time frame but with evidence that more than one
impact or atmospheric explosion may have been involved, a phase lasting
twenty years or so. Ugarit, for example, was destroyed, its earth turning
yellow in the heat generated, long after sites had been destroyed on Cyprus,
in Greece, and in Anatolia, although there is evidence that some sites even
in those areas were destroyed at different points in time, and even
sometimes the same site on more than one occasion.


>From Ananova, 30 April 2002
Scientists say fish on coral reefs live in their own capitalist, free market
economies. Those which survive by providing a valet service for their
neighbours risk losing customers if they do a bad job. Studies found client
fish were less likely to visit 'cleaners' who had previously cheated them or
forced them to queue.

Fish visit cleaners to have parasites nibbled from their bodies, but some
cleaners cheat by pinching flakes of skin. However the clients manage to
keep an overall good quality of service by exercising consumer choice and
voting with their fins.

The research was carried out by Redouan Bshary, of the University of
Cambridge, and Daniel Schaffer, of the Max Planck Institute for Behavioural
Physiology in Germany. They looked at client fish, like the long-nosed
parrotfish, and cleaner fish, like the wrasse, on the reefs of Ras Muhammad
on the Red Sea coast of Egypt.

The study is published in the journal Animal Behaviour and reported by New

Copyright 2002, Ananova

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