Clowning Around

Over our last few visits to the outer reef, we have been clowning around! By this we mean we have come across three species of fish that have the word ‘clown’ in their name: the Eastern Clownfish, the Clown Unicornfish and the Clown Triggerfish.

Why the clown name? Probably because of the stripes and bold patterns on their bodies, quite like the face paint and brightly coloured clothes on a circus clown!

Have a look at these… they really are spectacular.

Eastern Clownfish

  • Eastern Clownfish
  • Eastern Clownfish
  • Eastern Clownfish

Yes, we found Nemo: dressed in the classic Nemo colours: white bands with black margins and orange background, and classic Nemo behaviour with respect to the anemone – cautiously out, quick look around … and in again, cautiously out, quick look around… and in again, and again and again! These little fellows have many cousins, some 26 different species of clownfish living in their symbiotic sea anemone. We have come across 5 or 6 of them, but these particular ones are the real Nemo, the Amphiprion percula or Orange Clownfish. We saw them for the first time at Michaelmas Cay just a few days ago.

Clown Unicornfish

  • Clown Unicornfish
  • Clown Unicornfish
  • Clown Unicornfish
  • Clown Unicornfish

With its orange lips, striped face and black mask, you can see why this species gets its clown label. It is a part of the surgeonfish family. It is also known as the Orange-spine Unicornfish and that too is easily explained by the very sharp and bright orange scalpel-like spines at the base of the tail. Whatever the name, this is an elegant fish with its coloration, chiselled look and trailing filament from each corner of the tail in the males. But don’t mess with it or a flick of the spurs might leave you needing a real surgeon! We spot these at every reef we snorkel at, but they were particularly numerous at Milln Reef.

Clown Triggerfish

  • Clown Triggerfish
  • Clown Triggerfish
  • Clown Triggerfish
  • Clown Triggerfish

The Clown Triggerfish wins the contest for most vivid and flamboyant coloration. With its yellow clown lips, its orange squiggly lines on the back and bold polka dots on its belly, it is a magnificent fish, quite big too (about 45cm). But don’t be fooled by the pretty patterns. It is called triggerfish for a reason: it has three spines in its dorsal fin which can be ‘triggered’ in an upright position as a defence against predators. It is very territorial and has very sharp teeth. So best not to clown around too much with that one! We were wrapped to see these at Flynn Reef and Norman Reef.

One has to be impressed by nature when it produces such striking and amusing creatures. We are so lucky to be able to share their underwater world from time to time and hope you have enjoyed this post.

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