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New Research Suggests That Clownfish Aren’t As Nice As Nemo, And They Actually Use Counting To Differentiate Between Allies And Adversaries

Aastels - stock.adobe.com - illustrative purposes only, not the actual fish

You probably grew up watching Nemo, the lovable character from everyone’s favorite animated movie, and he always seemed like a gentle, harmless fish. However, recent research revealed that actual clownfish are a whole different story.

According to a study conducted by scientists in Japan, these real-life counterparts are not only spirited and possessive of their space, but they also have a remarkable ability to count.

The study found that clownfish use this skill to differentiate between allies and adversaries by observing and tallying the number of stripes on other fish that venture into their aquatic territories.

During their experiments, the team watched how these orange fish interacted with other fish of the same or similar kinds, particularly noting their response to fish with one, two, or three distinctive white stripes.

It turns out that clownfish have a knack for stripe-counting. They tend to avoid fish with three strips, which are like their own kind, and to a lesser degree, those with two stripes. On the other hand, they mostly overlook fish that have just one stripe or none at all.

So, Kina Hayashi, the study’s lead author, and her team at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology have revealed findings that challenge the portrayal of clownfish in popular Pixar movies.

In the films, these fish are depicted as shy and friendly creatures. But, in reality, clownfish are quite protective of their anemone homes, actively guarding them against intruders.

Interestingly, while they can also coexist peacefully with other species, clownfish still tend to be less hospitable towards members of their own species when it comes to sharing anemones.

Different anemonefish species, all living in the same environment, exhibit a variety of stripe patterns, which can include anywhere from three vertical white bars to having no stripes at all.

Aastels – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only, not the actual fish

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