Amphiprion ocellaris, also known as the Ocellaris Clownfish, False Percula Clownfish or Common clownfish, is a marine fish belonging to the family Pomacentridae which gathers clownfishes and damselfishes.
The Common clownfish is a small fish which grows up to 11 cm (4.3 inches). Its body has a stocky appearance and oval shape. It is compressed laterally, with a round profile. The coloration of its body is orange to reddish-brown, but it can also be black in some particular areas such as the Northern Territory in Australia. It has three vertical white stripes outlined with a fine black line. The first passes just behind the eye, the second in the middle of the body widens forward to the head centrally and the third one circles the caudal peduncle. All the fins are also outlined with a fine black line. Amphiprion ocellaris is often confused with Amphiprion percula, which possesses exactly the same colours and patterns at first sight but distinguishes itself by the thickness of the black outlines.
Amphiprion ocellaris typically lives in small groups on outer reef slopes or in sheltered lagoons at a maximal depth of 15 metres (49 ft). It inhabits three different species of sea anemones: Heteractis magnifica, Stichodactyla gigantea and Stichodactyla mertensii.
Amphiprion ocellaris is a diurnal fish. It is a protandrous hermaphrodite, which means the male can change its gender to female during its life, and lives in a harem in which an established dominance hierarchy manages the group and keeps individuals at a specific social rank. It also has an aggressive territorial behaviour and is completely dependant on its sea anemone which represents its "life insurance" as a safe shelter for the group and for the nest. The associative relationship that binds the clownfish and the sea anemone is called mutualism. On one hand, the fish can live within the sea anemone's tentacles and use it as a shelter because it has developed a thin layer of mucus which covers its body as protection against the stinging anemone's tentacles. On the other hand, the presence of the clownfish can be interpreted as a lure to attract potential anemone's preys close to the tentacles. And the clownfish can also defend the anemone against some reef fishes which could eat the tentacles.
The species Amphiprion ocellaris belongs to the class Osteichthyes which contains bony fish and ray-finned fish. A. ocellaris is the most basal species in the genus Amphiprion which is closely related to the genus Premnas. The species' most closely related ancestor is Amphiprion percula, the Orange Clownfish. It is thought that A. ocellaris specialized after diverging from the Premnas genus, and scientific evidence confirms that all clownfish belonging to the genus Amphiprion could withstand the stings of only one type of anemone, after further diverging the 28 different species of clownfish including A. ocellaris specialized to be able to resist the poisonous stings of many different species.
In nature, the false percula clownfish will host Heteractis magnifica and Stichodactyla gigantea. However, in captivity in a reef aquarium, the false percula will host other species of anemone, including Entacmaea quadricolor. In addition, clownfish may adopt a surrogate host as opposed to an anemone, such as Euphyllia divisa, xenia coral, etc.
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