Friday, December 1, 2023

«Nemo» fish and anemones – clownfish adapt their growth to the environment

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“Nemo” fish and anemones – Clownfish adapt their growth to the environment – Knowledge – SRF

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© Theresa Rueger


The bigger the sea anemone, the bigger Nemo: A new study shows that clownfish grow faster when they live with a large anemone. But the mutual symbiosis remains mysterious.

There is no Nemo without his anemone: the two sea creatures live in a mutual relationship. What was not known until now: The colored clownfish grow faster with large anemones than with small ones.

Researchers from the Universities of Newcastle and Boston have now provided experimental evidence of this for the first time in a new study.

The exact cause remains unclear

“Our experiment shows that the fish actively regulate their growth to adapt to their anemone host,” says Theresa Rueger, lead author of the study, in a press release.

The researchers assume that certain secretions from the anemone and the available space cause the fish to grow at different speeds. Because the experiments alone can rule out the availability of food and space as the cause. But the exact mechanism behind the phenomenon remains unclear.

Clownfish and anemones: your perfect deal

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Clownfish live in a close symbiosis with sea anemones. In technical language, this form of interrelationship is called mutualism. This means that both partners benefit from the relationship.

The anemone protects the fish from predators with its poisonous stinging cells and provides them with food. In return, the clownfish also defend the anemones from enemies. Their excretions can also serve as food for the anemones.

In addition, an earlier study shows that the fish fan their hosts with water at night, thereby improving their oxygen supply.

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