Picture of the Day

Finding 'Nemo's' family tree of anemones

Thanks in part to the popular film Finding Nemo, clownfishes are well known to the public and well represented in scientific literature. But the same can't be said for the equally colorful sea anemones -- venomous, tentacled animals -- that protect clownfishes and that the fish nourish and protect in return. A new study published online this month takes a step to change that, presenting a new tree of life for clownfish-hosting sea anemones along with some surprises about their taxonomy and origins. The relationship between the anemone and the clownfish is a mutually beneficial one. The fish have the ability to produce a mucus coating that allows them to shelter within the anemone's venom-filled tentacles without being stung. This protects clownfishes from bigger fishes, like moray eels, which can be stung by the anemone if they get too close. In return, the highly territorial clownfishes will ward away animals that might try to eat the anemone. In addition, their feces serve as an important source of nitrogen for the anemone, and some research suggests that as the fish wiggle through the anemone's swaying tentacles, they help oxygenate the host, possibly helping it grow.

Visit Website | Image credit: © B. Titus