Ever since the film 'Finding Nemo' inspired a worldwide cinema audience in 2003, probably everyone around knows the small orange-, black- and white-coloured clownfish, also known as the the anemonefish. They belong to the damselfish family and cavort in coral reefs from the eastern Indian Ocean to the Western Pacific.
What you should know about clownfish
Clownfish are commonly found in their habitat close to or even in anemones. While they offer them protection and a place of retreat, the clownfish defend their anemone against intruders and enemies. This is called a symbiotic relationship – a symbiotic community for mutual benefit.
Why are clownfish not eaten by the anemones?
For self-protection, anemones use the stinging poison of their tentacles to paralyze fish and even to kill them. How can it be then, that clownfish manage to still live in there? Great trick: The clownfish can transfer the stinging poison to their mucous membranes, so that the anemone does not perceive it as a foreign body and therefore doesn't directly make an impact on it.
Is it true that …?
... Clownfish can transform from a male into a female? Correct. They are not born into the world as 'either or', but have systems for both sexes. As the clownfish live in groups, the largest fish will always develop into the dominant female. Should the female die, the next strongest male transforms into the Alpha female.
Gender reassignment is useful for breeding purposes
We take advantage of the ability of the clownfish to undergo gender reassignment at the Aquarium for breeding purposes. If two almost equally large juvenile fish are put together and one of them transforms into a female, we have a harmonised pair in just a short period of time. Isn't that practical!
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