In Finding Nemo, a Disney animated movie production, a father-son relationship featuring two clownfishes were portrayed. The movie did not however, reveal that the male clownfish can change gender after the death of its female partner.
Clownfish or anemonefish belong to the subfamily Amphiprioninae in the family Pomacentridae. Up till now, there are about twenty eight species recognized, one in the genus Premnas, while the remaining are in the genus Amphiprion. They all form symbiotic mutualisms with sea anemones. Clownfish are overall yellow, orange, reddish, or blackish and many show white bars or patches depending on their species.
During spawning season, the males attract females by courting behaviour such as chasing, biting and extending fins. In a group of clownfish, there is a strict hierarchy based on size. The group of clownfish consists of a breeding pair of male and female as well as other non-breeding males. The largest clownfish of the school is the female and she is at the top of the hierachy while the next largest is the breeding male.
The special characteristic of the clownfish is that when the female in a group dies, the breeding male replaces it by changing sex and becoming the female. Its position is then replaced by one of the other males in the group of clownfish. Thus, the clownfish moves up in social ladder. This can happen because clownfish are hermaphrodites, which is an animal that has reproductive organs associated with both female and male sexes. Thus, they develop into males first and then mature into females.
This was an interesting fact to explore about as I have always thought that animals were only either male or female!
Casadevell, Delgado, Colleye, Monserrat and Parmentier from the Environmental Sciences Department, Sciences Faculty, Girona University in Spain conducted a histological study of the sex-change in the skunk clownfish Amphiprion akallopisos and documented it in the journal The Open Fish Science Journal, 2009, 2, 55-58.
“Clownfish” by knowhimonline, December 31, 2006. URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/knowhim/340093723/ (accessed on 8th April 2010).
M. Casadevall, E. Delgado, O. Colleye, S.B. Monserrat and E.Parmentier. Histological Study of the Sex-change in the Skunk Clownfish Amphiprion akallopisos. The Open Fish Science Journal, 2009, 2, 55-58.
“An Exploration of the Clownfish” by clown fish2 and clown fish1. Clownfish Biology, 2005. URL: http://tolweb.org/treehouses/?treehouse_id=3390 (accessed on 9 April 2010)
“Clownfish”, Wikipedia, URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clownfish (accessed on 9 April 2010)
“Hermaphrodite”, Wikipedia, URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermaphrodite (accessed on 9 April 2010)
“Percula Clownfish: Your Mommy Was Your Daddy.” by Alex. Neatorama Only, Science & Tech, 30 April 2007. URL: http://www.neatorama.com/2007/04/30/30-strangest-animal-mating-habits/ (accessed on 9 April 2010)