Keep your friends close and your anemones closer

Marine animals interact in a myriad of ways to secure protection, shelter, or food. For a lot of them, survival is the result of maintaining trusting partnerships rather than trying to get by on their own. In this new series of articles, we’ll introduce to you some unique symbiotic relationships beneath the surface, where animals not only coexist but embrace their differences for mutual benefits.

A clownfish swimming among the tentacles of its anemone home

Movie history’s most famous fish, the clownfish (Amphiprion Ocellaris), is one half of our first unlikely couple. The colorful, small fish took a rather dangerous choice to take shelter, breed, eat, and spawn: the sea anemone.

The likewise colorful sea anemone doesn’t sound that dangerous to you? Just ask the other fish who get stuck in the anemone’s stinging tentacles every day. At the ends of the sea anemone’s tentacles, you will find so-called nematocysts, which look like little harpoon stingers and trap prey that come to close.

So, why would the clownfish even dare to swim among the sea anemone? 

Thanks to an extraordinary quirk of nature, the 26 different kinds of clownfish can live within 10 of the more than 1000 types of anemone. The clownfish are born with a layer of mucus that is thicker than any other fish, giving it a natural protection against the anemone’s scary nematocysts. As the clownfish grows, its mucus layer gets more viscous when it mixes with the mucus from the sea anemone. In essence, this results in an even more impenetrable barrier to protect the little fish from getting stung.

Orange nemo clown fish in the beautiful vivid green anemone.

The clownfish depends on the anemone to protect itself from predators, using the anemone as a hiding place and shelter. In return for the safe habitat, the clownfish provides vital nutrients to the anemone, basically fertilizing it with their ammonia-rich waste. 

During the day, the clownfish dart through the water just above the anemone to catch food. When the clownfish attracts larger fish that try to eat them, they try to lure them closer to the anemones. The larger fish end up in contact with the anemone’s stingers, get paralyzed, and ultimately eaten. The remains of the larger fish are then eaten by the clownfish. Also, while the clownfish swims through the anemone’s tentacles, the anemone receives a full clean-up, leaving it in perfect condition for the next prey. 

Isn’t that a true dream-team?

Collaboration is the process of two or more individuals or organizations working together. With this series of articles, we first and foremost want to make you aware of the fascinating relationships beneath the surface. However, we also want to direct your attention to our own partners and ambassadors. There are so many amazing projects going on worldwide, and we are so happy to be in symbiosis with some of them!

Go explore more on our blog and read about all our wonderful partnerships, collaborations, and ambassadors.

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