Marta Soares

Marta Soares

Post Doctoral Fellow

Email: ;


Phone: + 351 21 8811700 (ext. 311)

Fax: + 351 21 8860954


Lab at the University of Neuchâtel:



:: Research Interests


I am a trained empirical behavioural ecologist with an interest on general: behavioural ecology, feeding ecology, tropical marine ecology, cooperative processes, cleaning symbioses, conservation, game theory (Biological Markets) and presently on the link between physiology (mostly endocrinology) and behaviour. I am passionate about cooperative behaviour, using for that, the cleaning interactions among fish as my main mutualistic model. My research on the cleaning mutualism had, so far, a relatively broad scope, ranging from a "simple" behavioural approach to a more integrative point of view, such as the application of game theory concepts (particularly the Biological Markets Theory) or, presently on a more physiological/functional fashion.



:: Current Research Projects


The Caribbean cleaning gobies Elacatinus spp

The Caribbean cleaning mutualism was the model I started with
during my PhD studies. The idea was to attempt to apply market
concepts to the Caribbean cleaning gobies and to determine whether
the biological market model is a suitable framework to understand
all cleaning mutualisms. While bearing some similarities to the best known cleaner fish – client mutualism (Labroides dimidiatus system), the cleaning goby mutualism revealed
striking differences: clients did not seem to use their potential for
access to multiple cleaners to promote honesty in cleaning gobies.
Clients of cleaning gobies do not respond to cleaner cheating by
switching or punishing cleaners. Tactile stimulation is never performed
by gobies on their clients. Most importantly, these cleaners mainly prefer to eat their clients' parasites (thus having
a tendency towards honesty). In view of the absence of several
important features of biological markets, the cleaning goby system was
not considered to be a case of a market. I am presently interested in
continuing my studies on these cleaners, only this time using a more
cognitive (and comparative) and physiological/functional approach.



The Indo-Pacific bluestreak cleaner wrasse,
Labroides dimidiatus

My studies on this particular cleaning model started also during
my PhD, but only briefly. Contrarily to the cleaning gobies,
interactions between these cleaners and their real clients have
been the target of several studies that have contributed to a
generalized knowledge of the functional aspects of these cleaner
fish behaviour. However, many open questions remain, being the
most important about the complex underlying physiological
mechanisms of cleaners and of their customers' decision making,
to which little or nothing has yet been addressed. Can fish social
behaviour be restricted to interactions within-species or can cleaners'
interspecific behaviour be modulated in a similar fashion? Is cleaning
a social or foraging behaviour? Is it governed by the same hormones
as intraspecific social behaviour? And how does it affect clients?



Presently, my main goal is to link the functional aspects of these
 cleaners decision making to its mechanisms, through the experimental
manipulation of neuroendocrine systems in cleaners and, by further
testing on how this manipulation influences their behaviour both during
learning experiments and their interactions with real clients. 


Funded by: FCT - SFRH/BPD/41437/2007



:: Students and volunteers


- Sónia Cardoso (PhD student)

- José Paula (master student)

- João Messias (master student)

- Pauline Narvaez (master student)

- Renata Mazzei (master student)

- Andreia Teixeira(volunteer)

Gonçalo André (volunteer)

- Jorge Sardinha (volunteer)



:: Publications 


Soares, M.C., Bshary, R., Cardoso S.C., Côté I.M., Oliveira RF. 2012. Face your fears: cleanerfish inspect predators despite being stressed by them. PLoS ONE 7(6): e39781. 


Soares M.C., Bshary R., Mendonça R., Grutter A. & Oliveira R. 2012. Neuropeptide modulation of cooperative behaviour: arginine vasotocin decreases prosocial behaviour in cleanerfish PLoS ONE 7(7): e39583.


Soares M.C., Oliveira R., Ros A.F.H., Grutter A. & Bshary R. 2011. Tactile stimulation lower stress in fish. Nature Communications. 2:534.


Côté I.M. & Soares M.C. 2011. Gobies as cleaners. In: The Biology of gobies (ed: R.A. Patzner, J.L. Van Tassell, M. Kovacic & B.G. Kapoor), Science Publishers Inc.


Ros, A.F.H., Lusa, J., Meyer, M., Soares, M., Oliveira, R.F., Brossard, M. & Bshary, R. 2011. Does access to the bluestreak cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus affect indicators of stress and health in resident reef fishes in the Red Sea? Hormones and Behavior. 59: 151-158.


Soares M.C., Bshary R., Fusani L., Goymann W., Hau M., Hirschenhauser K. & Oliveira R. 2010. Hormonal mechanisms of cooperative behaviour. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B – Biological Sciences. 365, 2737-275.


Soares, M.C., Côté, I.M., Cardoso, S.C., Oliveira, R.F. & Bshary, R. 2010. Caribbean cleaning gobies prefer client ectoparasites over mucus. Ethology. 116: 1244-1248.


Soares M.C., Bshary R. & I.M. Côté. 2009. Cleaning in pairs enhances honesty in male cleaning gobies. Behavioral Ecology, 20(6):1343-1347.


Cardoso S.C., Soares M.C., Oxenford H.A. & I.M. Côté. 2009.Interspecific differences in foraging behaviour and functional role of Caribbean parrotfish. Marine Biodiversity Records, 2: 1-6.


Soares M.C., I.M. Côté, Cardoso S.C. & Bshary R 2008. The cleaning goby mutualism: a system without punishment, partner switching or tactile stimulation. Journal of Zoology 276: 306–312.


Soares M.C., Bshary R., Cardoso S.C. & I.M. Côté 2008. Does competition for clients increase service quality in cleaning gobies. Ethology 114: 625–632.


Soares M.C., Bshary R. & I.M. Côté 2008. Does cleanerfish service quality depends on client value or choice options? Animal Behavior 76(1): 123-130.


Soares M.C., Bshary R., Cardoso S.C. & I.M. Côté 2008. The meaning of jolts by fish clients of cleaning gobies. Ethology 114(3): 209-214.


Barreiros J. P., Cardigos F., Soares M.S.C. & Machado L. F. 2008 Juvenile Sphyraena viridensis, preyed by the lizard fish Synodus saurus. A new predatory association from the Azores. Cybium – International Journal of Ichthyology 32(3): 273-274.


Soares M.C., Cardoso S.C. & I.M. Côté 2007 Client preferences by caribbean cleaning gobies: food, safety or something else? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 61: 1015-1022.


Anastácio P.M., Soares M. & A.M. Correia 2005 Crayfish (Procambarus clarki) consumption of wet-seeded rice plants (Oryza sativa): modifications throughout the rice growing period. Verh International Verein Limnology 29: 849-851.


Soares M. S. C. & J. P. Barreiros. 2003 Following associations with the striped red mullet Mullus surmuletus Linnaeus, 1758 (Perciformes, Mullidae) from the Azores. Aqua, Journal of Ichthyology and Aquatic Biology, 7(4): 139-144.


Soares M. S. C., Sousa L. & J. P. Barreiros. 2003 Feeding habits of the Lizardfish Synodus saurus (LINNAEUS, 1758) (Actinopterygii: Synodontidae) in the Azores. Aqua, Journal of Ichthyology and Aquatic Biology, 7(1): 29-38.


Sousa L., Barreiros J.P., Soares M. S. C., Hostin-Silva M. & R. S. Santos. 2003 Reproductive biology of the lizardfish Synodus saurus (Linnaeus, 1758) (Actynopterygii: Synodontidae) in the Azores. Cybium – International Journal of Ichthyology, 27 (1): 41-45.


Soares M. S. C., Barreiros J. P., Sousa, L. & R. S. Santos. 2002. Agonistic and predatory behaviour of the lizardfish Synodus saurus (Linnaeus, 1758) (Actinopterygii: Synodontidae) from the Azores. Aqua, Journal of Ichthyology and Aquatic Biology. 6(2): 53-60. 


Horários e Contactos

Dias da semana

das 09:00h às 13:00h

tel +351 218 811 740