Clownfish, the orange-, black- and white-striped fish made famous in the movie “Finding Nemo,” are a gossipy bunch, popping and clicking amid their anemone homes to defend and reinforce their social status, according to new research.
Unlike the 360 other species of territorial marine fish in the Pomacentridae family, clownfish don’t make a peep when mating. Researchers wondering why clownfish would bother to make noise in other circumstances discovered that their chatter helps maintain the rank and file among group members.
“Sound could be an interesting strategy for preventing conflict between group members,” lead study author Orphal Colleye, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Liège, Belgium, told LiveScience. “In terms of cost energy, you don’t have to interact with another individual to determine which is the dominant and which is the subordinate, you just need to make a sound.”…
Scientists have long been able to tag animals on land and follow their movements and habits. But tagging and tracking fish, like this spinecheek anemonefish, through vast oceans is a Herculean task. Tagging fish larvae less than an inch in length had proved almost impossible.
Biologist Simon Thorrold, director of the Ocean Life Institute, is among an international team using TRansgenerational Isotope Labeling (TRAIL) and DNA fingerprinting to determine how fish populations disperse and connect to one another in the reefs of Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea. Such information is essential for identifying critical marine habitats that should be set aside to protect fish populations that are coming under increasing pressure from fishing and habitat destruction.
Colorful clownfish swim among an array of sea anemones. Anemones appear in an enchanting variety of shapes and colors, but these simple invertebrates are essentially tubelike animals. One end of an anemone’s body is attached to or dug into the seafloor, while the other hosts a mouth surrounded by tentacles.
(This Research in Action article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.)
by Loren McClenachan, NSF
The clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris), shown here sheltering in a magnificent sea anemone (Heteractis magnifica), became one of the most recognizable and charismatic marine species after starring in the movie “Finding Nemo” (Walt Disney Pictures, 2003). Charisma can help the cause of conservation, as well-known species tend to garner greater conservation awareness, funding and legal protection.
However, a study published in the January 2012 issue of Conservation Lettersshows that even for charismatic species, taxonomic biases can affect conservation knowledge and legal protection. Among species featured in Finding Nemo,16 percent are at risk of extinction. People show significantly less conservation knowledge of small species like the anemonefish. Likewise, species with high economic value, like sharks, have deficiencies in legal protection relative to their conservation need.
This photo was taken by Natascia Tamburello in October 2010 at a depth of about 35 feet. The dive site, Halik, is located off of the island of Gili Trawangan in Indonesia — one of the few remaining relatively pristine reef ecosystems in the world.
(read more: Live Science) (image: Natascia Tamburello, Simon Fraser Univ.)
Clown anemonefish nestle amid the tentacles of a sea anemone off the Tukangbesi Islands in Indonesia. The clear waters surrounding coral reefs have encouraged the evolution of color and pattern among the inhabitants.