Anenomefish were catapulted into the public eye after the release of the Disney blockbuster, Finding Nemo. The story revolved around a common clownfish navigating the oceans to find his son. Clownfish may not normally be known for their long distance navigational skills but the film did highlight how protective the heads of the family can be. For anyone who has come into close proximity of an anemone housing these fish then you will know how aggressive and territorial they are, and for good reason.
Anenomes and the anenomefish that inhabit them rely on each other. The anenomefish use the anemone as protection and as a place to raise their young. The stinging arms of the anemone cannot harm the anenomefish due to a special mucus which covers their body but will serve as a nasty irritation to a potential predator. In the meantime the fish will fan the anemone, brushing off parasites and will also serve as a guard from other reef fish which might otherwise try to eat the anemone. Due to this mutual beneficial symbiosis both anemone and fish have a much higher chance of survival and have a healthier life because of it.
However, there is one creature that can slip through the anenome’s defences, a parasitic isopod. These parasites enter the gills of the fish at a young age. Once inside they sever the blood supply to the fishes tongue until eventually the tongue falls out. Once this has happened the isopod then attaches itself to what is left and becomes the fishes new tongue! Although this process must be uncomfortable for the fish it doesn’t seem to impact its behaviour and they continue to live a normal full life. This can provide a fantastic photography subject, getting a view of the isopod staring out at you from inside the mouth of the fish, if you have the patience.
It has been another wonderful week in Lembeh with some returning guests from Australia and the UK. One of these returning guests was Phillip. Last time he was in Lembeh he had reached 399 dives but during this trip he surpassed dive number 500! Congratulations Phil and we hope to see you again for the next milestone!