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All clownfish are born male. When the female of the group dies, the most dominant male will turn female.

All clownfish are born male. When the female of the group dies, the most dominant male will turn female.
All clownfish are born male. When the female of the group dies, the most dominant male will turn female.

Best known for being featured in the movies “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory,” the clownfish has become a popular aquarium pet. Nemo and his dad, Marlin, are ocellaris clownfish, also called false clownfish or clown anemonefish. Anemonefish are so-named for the sea anemones in which they make their homes. There are 28 species of anemonefish, and they come in many colors, such as pink, red, yellow, black, brown and multi-colored stripes.

All anemonefish, including clownfish, are hermaphrodites. They are all born male, according to National Geographic. They have the ability to turn themselves female, but once the change is made, they can’t go back to being male. Sometimes the change is made when mating. Two males will become mates and the larger, dominant fish will become the female.

These social fish live in groups that are led by one dominant female, according to the ADW. The second largest fish is the dominant male while all of the other fish in the group are smaller males. If the female dies, the dominant male will become a female to replace her. The largest of the smaller males will then become the dominant male of the group. 

Clownfish communicate by making popping and clicking noises, according to a study on the journal PLOS One. Researchers say the chatter helps maintain the rank and file among group members. "Sound could be an interesting strategy for preventing conflict between group members," lead study author Orphal Colleye, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Liège, Belgium, told LiveScience in a 2012 article.


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