clownfish credit CrisisRose via Wikimedia

Nemo's fishy home is a sharehouse

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Clownfish, like Nemo, share their sea anemone homes when space is limited, according to Australian research. The researchers showed that multiple species of clownfish live together in the same host anemone and that they divide up the space, pushing the more subordinate species to the periphery. But in a lesson for sharehouses everywhere, it seems the fish all get along, with dominant species accepting subordinate species and no increase in aggression. The researcher say that cohabitation appears important for sustaining diversity, and highlights the importance of habitat protection.

Journal/conference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Organisation/s: University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Curtin University

Media Release

From: University of Technology Sydney (UTS)

Clownfish, like Nemo, share their sea anemone homes when space is limited, according to Australian research. The researchers showed that multiple species of clownfish live together in the same host anemone and that they divide up the space, pushing the more subordinate species to the periphery. But in a lesson for sharehouses everywhere, it seems the fish all get along, with dominant species accepting subordinate species and no increase in aggression.

Dr Emma Camp, from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and the University of Essex, said that cohabitation appears important for sustaining diversity, and highlights the importance of habitat protection.

“We looked at clownfish in the Coral Triangle – the centre of marine biodiversity – and found that the number of clownfish species outnumbered host-anemone species, creating a situation where host anemones are often limited. Instead of competing for available hosts, clownfish cohabit anemones.”

As yet, the benefit or cost of cohabitation is not fully resolved; however the lack of aggression between cohabiting species suggests that sharing anemones is an important part of supporting clownfish diversity in high-biodiversity areas.

“Marine habitats are being lost globally and unfortunately the cost of that loss is not fully understood,” Dr Camp said.

“In many cases we will not know the true loss associated with habitat degradation until it is too late. Understanding biodiversity and how it is supported is therefore crucial in helping to preserve diversity and the natural ecosystem services provided.

Given that multiple marine species like fishes and crustaceans cohabit anemones (and other microhabitats) within the Coral Triangle, protecting these microhabitats and preserving cohabiting relationships is important to conserving this global centre of marine biodiversity.”

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