Jealousy makes lovers nasty. Oh yes, there is a not so well-known side to the little clownfish (anemonefish) the world lovingly calls Nemo. He’s more than just a cute and cuddly international superstar who drove aquarium acquisitions through the roof. Skeletons lurk in oceanic closets.
These guys, clownfish, and I say guys for the first time with absolute conviction; ‘cause they’re all born male. No females here. Every single one of them sperm-producers. So then, how do these only-born-male clownfish give birth to create the vast schools we see while scuba diving?
Simple. They don’t. The females do.
Here’s one of our jealous lovers’ other little secrets – they undergo sex changes. As easy as that. Sex change extraordinaires. But they will only do this on condition they become the dominant female in the group. Imagine all that in-fighting with a bunch of men deciding whose sex can be changed? They have to choose wisely though, because once they go girl, there’s no going back.
They live to between 6 and 10 years and choose an anemone with their partners after rubbing themselves onto its tentacles to ensure their body mucus is immune to its sting. And don’t you try scuba diving near it once they’ve selected their home. The males are horribly jealous lovers and protect their partners as if their lives depend on it.
They may only be 11cm in length, but the one you see here head-butted, body-slammed and pecked at my 1m 72cm frame like it was a wet matchstick. Not proud of it. But yes, I backed away from a jealous, cute and cuddly little clownfish at my favourite scuba diving destination. Still don’t know if it was one of those that underwent a sex change or not.