anemonefish with host anemone (#22A)

This is an anemonefish, a unique type of fish which makes its home among the stinging tentacles of a sea anemone. The relationship between these two animal species is called symbiosis. The exact term describing the relationship of this anemonefish to its anemone is obligate symbiosis, meaning the anemonefish must live with the anemone in order to survive. Most anemones, in contrast, do not need the anemonefish for survival. This is called facultative symbiosis.

Anemonefish, when threatened by an approaching predator, dive into the tentacles of the anemone. Unlike other fish, anemonefish are protected from the sting of the nematocysts (stinging cells) of the host anemone by their protective mucus (slime) layer. This protective mucus is a feature common to all fish, but the anemonefish's mucus has special chemical properties that assist in protecting it from its host anemone's sting.

There are over 1,000 species of sea anemones, of which only ten are host to anemonefishes. There are 28 species of anemonefishes.

The distribution of anemonefishes with host anemones is restricted to a large area of the Indo-Pacific. Some places, such as Hawaii, may have one or more of the ten species of anemone that are capable of hosting anemonefish, but without any anemonefish (anemones are facultative symbionts). Contrary to popular belief, there are no anemonefish in the Caribbean.

Identification of anemonefish: Amphiprion ocellaris (common name: False Clown Anemonefish)
Identification of anemone: Heteractis magnifica

For more views and information about anemones and anemonefish on this site, visit the "my buddy Eric..." page, the "pink anemonefish" close-up view page, or the Anemonefish Gallery for more anemonefish photos.

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