True Percula Clownfish, Nemo’s Look-alike cousin, Under Protective Scrutiny

September 11, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Aquariums, Saltwater Fish

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You can rest assured “Nemo” is not under review, rather its Nemo’s Look-alike cousin, the True Percula Clown, that’s undergoing scrutiny!

Concern about threats to our planets animals and their habitats abound. So the recent flourish of articles, describing the Nemo inspired fish from the popular movie “Finding Nemo” as possibly endangered, immediately caught my eye.

I love Nemo, and hate the thought of the fish that sparked his creation being in a dire situation. But no, it is not the Nemo inspired clownfish that’s being scrutinized. The Nemo caricature was designed from the Ocellaris Clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris, which is a fish with a very wide distribution. The clown whose status is in question is the True Percula Clownfish Amphiprion percula, also known as the Orange Clownfish.

Percula Clownfish protective Status review

A petition from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to list the True Percula Clownfish and seven damselfish species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was submitted to the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrationā€˜s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
two years ago, on September 14, 2012. NMFS announced on September 3, 2014 that the Percula clownfish Amphiprion percula may warrant protection under ESA.

NOAA Fisheries determined that the petition did not present substantial information to pursue the six Indo-Pacific damsel species and the Caribbean damselfish will be reviewed by a regional office. But they do feel the Percula Clown warrants review.

For their review, they are soliciting scientific and commercial information to help in their determination. If you are interested you can submit your comments to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), but they must be received by November 3, 2014.

Ret Talbot gives a really good overview of the status review process in his article, “Orange Clownfish a Step Closer to Endangered Species Act Listing.” He says that “NMFS cited major anthropogenic stressors such as global climate change and ocean acidification as the primary basis for the finding.” He goes on to discuss the perceived threats and the responses of interested parties, including the Marine Ornamental Defense Committee of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC).

All the fuss about “Nemo”. the False Percula Clownfish

The Ocellaris Clown (the Nemo inspired clownfish) and its look-alike cousin, the True Percula Clown, are some of the most popular aquarium fish, and are brilliant favorites to encounter when diving!

No, the Ocellaris Clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris is not the clown whose status is being reviewed. Alluding to Nemo turns out to be is as “fishy” as Nemo himself in addressing the True Percula’s status review.

It’s amazing though, how the “Nemo” theme was picked up on as a sensational title plug. It makes more sense that it has been played up though, when such fanciful statements deftly led the way. “Finding Nemo’s getting harder as global warming and acidifying oceans destroy the coral reefs the clownfish calls home,” was stated in a press release by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). It then goes on to say, “Endangered Species Act protection… will help make sure these beautiful fish survive in the wild and not just in the movies.”

Now I like sensationalism just as much as the next fellow, but I like it to be factual sensation. I guess it’s an honest mistake though, with these two clownfish being so similar in appearance. It takes a very clever eye to discern the differences between these two, even a challenge for experts. In fact, these two are so similar that the Ocellaris Clown has been dubbed the False Percula Clownfish.

True Percula Clown VS Ocellaris (False Percula) Clown, here’s 3 identifying clues:

  • The best way to tell the difference between these two is knowing where they originated from, though their territories do overlap a bit in some locals. The True Percula is found in the Northern Queensland and Melanesia (New Guinea, New Britain, New Ireland, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu). The False Percula on the other hand, has a much wider distribution. It is found in the Andaman Sea (Andaman and Nicobar Islands), Indo-Malayan Archipelago, Philippines, northwestern Australia; coast of Southeast Asia northwards to the Ryukyu Islands.
  • Another clue is the number of spines in the dorsal fin. The True Percula has 10 dorsal spines while the False Percula has 11 (rarely 10).
  • Coloring is a very tricky clue, because these two can be so similar. They both are orange fish with broad white bars. However the True Percula has black margins of around its white bars of variable widths, and they can sometimes be rather thick. The False Percula often has thin black margins, but sometimes may not have any margins at all.

These two clownfish are a win-win species for both the aquarist and in nature. Providing the best environment in the wild is of utmost importance, and these adorable fish provide a wonderful experience for divers. In captivity both species are successful breeders and the captive bred specimens are readily available. Not only have these captive bred fish proven to be very hardy in the aquarium, there are now a number of really cool color morphs available too.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

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