The hybrid clownfish known as Amphiprion leucokranos, here living among the tentacles of Heter-actis crispa in a bed of encrusting soft coral, Sinularia sp. Fish with A. leucokranos characteristics are produced by crosses between Amphiprion chrysopterus and either A sandaracinos or A. perid-eraion. This fish is likely the offspring of a cross between Amphiprion chrysopterus and A. sandaracinos. This specimen is unusual because it has a complete headbar, an uncommon feature that makes it look like Amphiprion nigripes. Photo taken in the Solomon Islands. J. Sprung
For additional information about Amphiprion leucokranos see Carlson, 1996 and Nosratpour, 1997.
What benefits do the clownfish get by their association? The most obvious one is protection from predators. Clownfish are slow swimmers and the anemone is a safe home for them from which they clo not stray very far. Watching clownfish among the tentacles
of their host one cannot help but notice that they seem to derive "pleasure" from the tactile stimulation. A clownfish in its carpet anemone is "snug as a bug in a rug." The tactile stimulation may do more than stimulate cozy feelings, it may cause the clownfish to secrete more of its protective mucus (Brooks and Mariscal (1984). Specimens of Amphiprion clcirki kept with artificial anemones made of rubber bands required less time to acclimate to a real anemone than specimens maintained without such surrogate hosts. The term "acclimation" refers here to the period of time when the clownfish first approaches a new anemone. The fish exhibits a behaviour wherein it gradually comes in contact with the anemone, touching it only briefly until it finally is able to "dive right in." We have noticed that very often newly imported clownfish or ones already with a host anemone do not exhibit any acclimation period when presented with a new host, even if the host is a different species of anemone. They fearlessly swim right among the tentacles of new anemones without a pause.
There are some odd behaviours clownfish exhibit in this relationship with their host that have not been fully explained. For example, clownfish commonly suck on the tips of the tentacles, sometimes biting them, causing them to deflate and taking them in and out of the mouth with each "breath." It is possible that this behaviour is associated with
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