The Twobar Anemone Fish, Amphiprion allardi, is part of the damselfish family and one of the two anemone fish we have in South Africa. Anemone fish are so named as they have a symbiotic relationship with anemones and live among the tentacles. Anemones have stinging cells called nematocysts which contain paralysing toxins. The nematocyst has a hair trigger which when activated shoots a harpoon-like structure into its prey which carries the toxins and paralyses the animal which then allows the anemone to move it to its mouth and digest it. Anemones eat small fish and crustaceans. The anemones in these photos are autofluorescing. The one is at 20m and the other at 30m. You should not see red at these depths so these anemones are actually giving off the red light. The bubble tip anemone is at 30m and the photo is taken without a flash or strobe.
So how do anemone fish survive in the anemone? As juveniles they start rubbing their bodies on the underside of the anemone, eventually moving onto the stinging tentacles and actually absorb the mucus of the anemone. Anemone fish have very thick scales for their size and are also covered in mucus. The mucus they absorb from the anemone allow the fish to live within the anemone as the anemone recognises the fish as “part” of itself and therefore does not sting the fish. The anemone fish typically have a pair of adults living in the anemone and may well also contain a few juveniles. The larger of the two is the female. More about this relationship in the next post.
Conditions are currently mind-blowing in Sodwana. Flat seas, 40m+ visibility and 28degC water temp.
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