Sea Anemone and Clownfish relationship Commensalism

| December 6, 2017

Learn all about sea anemone and clownfish relationship. The ornately colored sea anemone (uh-NEM-uh-nee) is named after the equally flashy terrestrial anemone flower. A close relative of coral and jellyfish, anemones are stinging polyps that spend most of their time attached to rocks on the sea bottom or on coral reefs waiting for fish to pass close enough to get ensnared in their venom-filled tentacles.

There are 28 recognised species of clown fish that are found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The clown fish is also found as far north as the Red Sea and inhabits the Great Barrier Reef, on the Australian east coast. The oceans of the world contain over 1,000 different species of sea anemones.

Symbiosis describes the special relationship between clownfish and sea anemones. They are the only fish that do not get stung by the tentacles of the sea anemone. Clownfish have a slimy mucus covering that protects them from the sea anemone. However, if this covering is wiped off of a clownfish, it will get stung and possibly be killed when it returns home to the anemone. The clownfish and the sea anemone help each other survive in the ocean. The clownfish, while being provided with food, cleans away fish and algae leftovers from the anemone. In addition, the sea anemones are given better water circulation because the clownfish fan their fins while swimming about.

The clown fish and the sea anemone have a mutual relationship with one another: the sea anemone gets food and maintenance from the clown fish and the clown fish gets protection from the sea anemone. The clown fish are known for helping to keep the sea anemones clean by eating the sea anemone’s dead leftovers, by eating dead tentacles the sea anemone has lost, and by eating the sea anemone free from parasites. In other words, the clown fish are the “maids” of the sea anemones.

Clown fish also provide the sea anemone with its excrement which makes up a large portion of the sea anemone diet alone. Also, the clown fish aid the sea anemone by using their bright colored gills to lure fish and other organisms into the sea anemone so the anemone can capture the lured prey. Finally, the sea anemones profit from the clown fish by getting better water circulation throughout their whole body because the clown fish are constantly swimming throughout their tentacles. At the same time, the sea anemone provides the clown fish with protection against predators using its stinging tentacles. The sea anemone also provides the clown fish with a substrate in which the clown fish can lay their eggs and be protected.

The sea anemone and clownfish are a great example of mutualism, meaning both species benefit from having the other around. The anemone protects the clownfish by concealing it within its poisonous arms, as well as leaving scraps of its meals for the clownfish to consume. In return, the clownfish rids the anemone of parasites, wards away predators, and even offers nutrients by way of its excrement.

Sea Anemone and Clownfish relationship Commensalism

Clownfish

The clownfish is a type of fish that lives in salt water habitats. It is also called an Anemonefish. Clownfish get their name from the bold colored strokes on their body, like clowns face paint. Clownfish can’t survive without a host anemone whose stinging tentacles protect them. The average size of Clownfish is three inches and most are brightly colored with white stripes on the head or side of the body.

Sea Anemone

Sea anemones are marine animals in the Cnidaria phylum. These sea creatures are often mistaken as marine plants or flowers. The body is composed of a columnar structure, with one end of the column attacked to a substrate, and the other end houses the mouth and tentacle structures or nematocysts, a type of cnidae. The cnidae or nematocysts contain stinging cells that paralyze the prey. Sea anemones do not actively seek food instead they are opportunistic feeders, meaning they wait for passing prey. They are found in coastal regions throughout the world, but mainly in warm temperate regions.

What is Sea Anemone and Clownfish Relationship?

Clownfish perform an elaborate dance with an anemone before taking up residence, gently touching its tentacles with different parts of their bodies until they are acclimated to their host. A layer of mucus on the clownfish’s skin makes it immune to the fish-eating anemone’s lethal sting. In exchange for safety from predators and food scraps, the clownfish drives off intruders and preens its host, removing parasites.

Clownfish and Sea Anemone Commensalism or Mutualism?

Commensalism is a symbiotic relationship where one species provides protection for another less mobile or more vulnerable species. The relationship between Clownfish and anemones is a well-known example of commensalism. And in mutualism the clownfish live in the stinging tentacles of sea anemones. They are coated in mucous which protect them from the anemone’s stinging nematocysts.

A sea anemone makes an ideal home for a clownfish. Its poisonous tentacles provide protection from predators and a clownfish makes its meals from the anemone’s leftovers. A clownfish can help an anemone catch its prey by luring other fish toward over so that the anemone can catch them. Clownfish also eat any dead tentacles keeping the anemone and the area around it clean.

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