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FAQs about the Clownfish Identification 3

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Id of clownfish      7/16/15
Hi Robert,
I was told to contact you that you might be able to help me id a clownfish.
I believe it's a female saddle back. It is 8 cm in length.
I was told originally it was sebae or clarkii.
Thanks in advance
<Mmm; looks like a female Amphiprion polymnus to me as well. Bob Fenner>
Adam Smith
re: Id of clownfish

Hi Bob
Thanks for the quick Id.

Collected this the other day   /Cam     12/11/14
Id help please. Is this just juvenile coloration?
<... a cross? Twixt... Chrysopterus and Premnas? B>
Regards Cameron

We don't get Premnas here!??? /Cam     12/11/14
<So rare I don't recall seeing it there, but according to Fishbase.org by a search of Fiji marines:
Am going to send your image and query to a friend (Matt Pedersen) who knows MUCH more re. BobF>
Cameron Bee

Re: Collected this the other day   /Matt & RMF     12/11/14
Morning Bob & Cameron,
First, here’s what we know is in Fiji.
Chrysopterus, Pacificus, Perideraion and Barberi. Do you have Sandaracinos there? Am I missing any?
<Mmm, no sandaricinos; but a couple of others: http://www.fishbase.org/Country/CountryChecklist.php?resultPage=2&c_code=242&vhabitat=saltwater
Thinking about the nature of babies of the Tomato complex, it is fair to say that a fish this small, if it was pure Barberi, could have more than one stripe. That said, I was shipped a small barberi earlier this summer that was probably comparable in size and it was already down to a single headstripe.
<Ahh; Cam; do you have this fish still? Can you get some others... to send about for DNA work et morphometrics look/see?>
That means this fish must have Chrysopterus in it. Now, I cannot rule this out as simply being a very small, very pure Chrysopterus on it’s own account. After all, Chrysopterus is called the “Orange Fin” clownfish. That said Cameron, I’m guessing you’ve seen baby Fijian Chrysopterus at this size and THEY don’t look like THIS, YES?
<They def. do NOT. Are vibrant colored, much like those in Indo.>
Plus, without your answer, my idea of baby chrysopterus is that they would include the white “tail flag” that most clarkii complex juveniles have...this fish lacks that. What would cause that to not be present? The influence of something else.
My gut, when I saw this fish, was that it reminded me of another hybrid I’ve seen; Clarkii X Frenatus out of the Philippines (see attached images from Barnett Shutman / RVS Fishworld). So my guess, if this is a hybrid (which I think it probably is) is that this would be Chrysopterus X Barberi.
<Dang; don't have Shutman's email addy. Do add him here if you do Matt>
I would love to see a chrysopterus at this size for comparison, that would firm up the hybrid suspicions. Without that, my gut reaction before I thought this through was the Chrysopterus X Barberi mix. <Mmm; a bit too red... hence my Premnas guess. Cam, does this fish bear much of opercular spinage?>
In my clownfish articles and presentation, I’ve tried to convey an idea that’s difficult to put into words – similar crosses between similar species produce similar results. This could be manifest in the resent example of fish which look like Leucokranos being found in Indonesia, where the requisite Chrysopterus parent is absent. The suspected parentage there is Clarkii X Sandaracinos.
This is also another example of why I lean towards the parentage I suggested...I suspect I’d have a good idea what the hybrid of Chrysopterus X Pacificus or Perideraion would look like, and it wouldn’t be THIS fish shown in your photos.
I’d hold onto it a little bit and let it grow up before shipping it out....get some good photos of it as it develops.
<Thank you for your input Matt. Cam is likely sleeping at this time. Cheers, BobF>

Re: Collected this the other day      12/11/14
Awesome info, thanks. Firstly I haven't seen a chrysopterus this small yet, strange I know! This guy caught my eye by accident (same dive with weird things happening Bob) I have a video of it on my Facebook page in HD for better viewing. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=395162423973607
<I see>
There was, in that area, both chrysopterus and tomatoes. My initial thought was that it could be just a juvenile blue stripe but a
some thing was different about it, stuck way down in a crack, out if view, it really caught my eye, and that happens subconsciously when things are out of the norm. Thank you for the input guys, THIS is why the internet was invented, love it.
<Me too!>
I will keep it, although would like to ship it to you Matt just for the safety aspect alone. (Fijian brain = oh why is this small clown and anemone put especially in this area, must be a reject, I will throw it out)
I just had the only pink Acropora granulosa I have ever seen in my life, taken out of the tank and left to dry as they thought it was bleaching!
I will digest all that info Matt, just woke up, but I see where you are going. I have to firm up what a juvenile blue stripe looks like, that is my first step. I will keep you posted
Thank you
Regards, Cameron Bee
<And you Cam. B>

Re: Collected this the other day     /Matt & RMF     12/11/14
So I found this - https://www.flickr.com/photos/94013673@N04/9681887973 <see below>
That’s what I would more or less expect a juvenile of the clarkii complex to appear; note the “White flag” on the top of the tail. Your fish lacks that. This juvenile, which can only be chrysopterus (as Clarkii isn’t present in Fiji) also has bright yellow fins, which again is what I would expect a baby Chrysopterus to have. The strong orange coloration
I know you refer to the red clowns there as Tomato, but I should point out that “Tomato”, which is A. frenatus, doesn’t exist in Fiji. Those are A. barberi ( more here –> http://www.reef2rainforest.com/2014/11/11/coral-bonus-it-was-always-the-red-clownfish-from-fiji-amphiprion-barberi-part-3/  )
I completely understand why Bob leans towards Premnas biaculeatus being involved in this, but simply put, other than Fishbase’s records which appear to not be terribly reliable, I cannot place Premnas in Fiji to parent such a fish.
Have you ever seen a Maroon Clownfish in Fiji? I can’t find any reliable records that actually put it there.
<I have no pix of Premnas from FJ, nor do I recall ever seeing it there, or others mentioning it>
We could of course, talk about such a fish coming over from another island group, but it would have to have come from the west. What’s west of Fiji? Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Are there maroons in Vanuatu? Yes, there are according to FishBase (it represents the easternmost range). So the real question is, could a larval clownfish from Vanuatu (or New Caledonia) make
its way to Fiji? It’s possible, but the reality is that we can look at the number of endemics that are found in Fiji/Tonga and realize there’s a biogeographic barrier between Fiji and the groups to the west. This is why Vanuatu and New Caledonia have different “Chrysopterus” than those found in Fiji / Tonga.
So the process of elimination says that whatever this fish is, it mostly is from Fiji, and not outside. The short larval period of
clownfish bolsters that assertion (researchers only proved something like a 250 mile range recently...that’s far, but I suspect Vanuatu is boatloads farther!).
<Yes... 1,211 km.>
If this fish was parented in Fiji, that restricts us to what’s found in Fiji. That means that there is only one clownfish that could contribute a Three Stripe pattern, and that’s Chrysopterus. ANY of the skunk types found in Fiji would have strong influence to remove body stripes (this is evidenced in both leucokranos and thiellei). So that rules out any of the skunk types as a possible parent. If none of the skunks can be a parent, process of elimination means that Barberi is the ONLY species left to be a candidate, never mind that it is also the only one native and present that could contribute the red shade seen in this fish. So therefore it can only be the hybrid of A. (chrysopterus X barberi). And the only other candidate I’m currently aware of would be Premnas biaculeatus.....but only if we can prove it being in Fiji. Still, your observation of what was generally around, and frankly what is generally seen in quantity in Fiji, suggests that Chrysopterus, Barberi and Perideraion are the predominant species. So whether a hybrid pair exists (or existed out there) or this was a case of accidental fertilization (sperm drifting over from one pair to fertilize the actively-spawning nest of another pair), the odds simply would seem to favor Chrysopterus X Barberi as well.
Growing it up a bit should confirm it.
I should also point out, I would sit here and say if the coloration alone were different, I couldn’t immediately jump to the hybrid conclusion...it could be something influenced by diet. It’s the unusual third stripe formation (which would disappear as Chrysopterus ages) that really clinches the hybrid nature of the baby fish for me.
More as I can...have spent the last 48 hours home with our daughter with a 103.7F fever. I’m getting nothing...NOTHING done!<Yikes; do what is most important... your daughter's health>
<Am going to ask Walt Smith and Bruce Carlson re whether they've seen Premnas in FJ. Cheers, BobF>

Re: Collected this the other day    /Matt & RMF     12/11/14
And now I can see the video on Facebook, and it shows me the fish residing in E. quadricolor. Have you ever seen A. chrysopterus ever in E. quadricolor on the reef there in Fiji?
<Yes; quite common>
From looking at all the Fiji photos, it looks like Barberi takes over E. quadricolor, with Chrysopterus in other species. This strongly pushes us towards Barberi from a host perspective (I should note that IF there was P. biaculeatus in Fiji, it would also use E. quadricolor).
So really here Cameron, the only thing to do would be to grow it up to about 1.5” in size. By that point, if it was a pure A. barberi, it should only have a headstripe and be visible as such. In the meantime, I should just ask Dustin Dorton how many stripes A. barberi settles out with. If three, then there could still be a chance for this to simply be a juvenile A. barberi. If he says two (which is what my Sumatran Fires do) then this is a hybrid.
<Cheers, B>
Re: Collected this the other day. Walt, Bruce: Premnas in FJ?    /Cam & RMF     12/11/14
Here are some more shots to look at
<Ah yes... much more like A. barberi and A. chrysopterus cross. BobF>
Cameron Bee

Re: Collected this the other day. Walt, Bruce: Premnas in FJ?   /Cam     12/11/14
Here are some assorted shots of fish in system showing white tail flag as Matt refers to on some pretty small chrysopterus and some variations on other clowns as well. There is a substantial colour difference between this and the smallest chrysopterus (still about double the size of this specimen) in photos and lacking that white tail flag.
Cameron Bee

A. barberi, A. chrysopterus adult and juv.

Re: Collected this the other day. Walt, Bruce: Premnas in FJ?      /Walt & RMF      12/11/14
Hi Bob, Matt and all,
<Hey Walt>
When Cameron showed me this fish in the tank I was really interested and confused as well. It is a real beauty (albeit tiny) of some specie and to me fin structure does not resemble Premnas.
<Seeing the later, larger pix, I do agree>

They seem to have slightly longer pectorals but it is the body length in proportion to depth that is also confusing. While the chrysopterus usually has a little wider profile the barberi and peridion types are even more pronounced in depth.
However the fish is still very juvenile but its elongated shape has me stumped. There are no Premnas in Fiji. At least in my 19+ years here I have never seen one and our divers have never brought on in.
<Me neither>
Having said that I do suspect that we might be surprised what we will find when we finally are able to reach the far northern tip of Vanua Levu.
Right now the location is too far for our divers to reach with the boats we currently use but we are in the process of refitting our biggest boat for use up there. It is the third largest barrier reef in the world and since there is no tourism it is largely unexplored and unreported in any detail.
We are finding some really amazing and unexpected fish south of this location (as far as we can currently reach) with fish that are not generally expected to be found in Fiji or Vanuatu. When talking with the locals from up there and showing them photos they swear there are Percula in the far north but I would consider this highly unreliable information since they have a tendency to tell you almost anything they think you want to hear.
For the moment I would have to agree with Bob "much more like A. barberi and A. chrysopterus cross" and since we have never seen anything like this before this is probably the case of a variant. Although we do see Barberi with a mid-body stripe from time to time but the oval shape is always predominant.
My 2 cents!
<Thanks mate. BobF>

Re: Collected this the other day. Walt, Bruce: Premnas in FJ?     /Bruce     12/11/14
Nope, no Premnas or A. clarkii in Fiji. Only the species already mentioned: chrysopterus, pacificus, perideraion and barberi.
Attached is video of a typical A. chrysopterus juvenile with an adult (yes, the anemone is bleached. I shot this during the big bleaching event in 2000).
The red color of the fish in your photos is interesting and perhaps it could have some “red” genes from barberi. Beyond that I can only speculate.
<Thanks Bruce. BobF>
<Insertu vid. 1>

Re: Collected this the other day. Walt, Bruce: Premnas in FJ?     /Bruce     12/11/14
OK, I knew I had some video of a juvenile Anemonefish that looked very similar to the “unknown” Fiji juvenile. Attached is that video. It is a juvenile Premnas from the Solomon Islands. Sure looks like the mystery Fiji fish doesn’t it?
<Ah yes>
So maybe a Premnas did make its way over to Fiji. Unlikely but not impossible.
<Thanks again Bruce. B>
<Insertu vid. 2>

Re: Collected this the other day. Walt, Bruce: Premnas in FJ?     /Bruce     12/11/14
I should back up a bit on that last message. I have that video clip filed under “Premnas” but I only assumed that is what it was when I observed it.
<Heeeeee! See where I jumped as well>
It was a “very tiny” fish as you can see - not much larger than the bubble tips on the anemone. There were many other Premnas in that area so I assumed it was a juvenile Premnas. Whatever it is, it does look very much like the Fiji juvenile.

Re: Collected this the other day. Walt, Bruce: Premnas in FJ?     /Matt & RMF      12/12/14
Walt, Cameron, Bob, Bruce,
I am solidly convinced that’s what we’re looking at as I initially proposed this morning.
The feedback from Dustin is that their A. barberi juveniles settle out with 2-3 stripes (which is to be expected), which means there would be no immediately genetic influence to wipe out the mid and caudal stripes at settlement time (which is different than what happens with Leucokranos, where stripes are likely prevented from ever forming).
I would expect this fish to lose its tailstripe as it grows, as both parental species lack the tailstripe but Chrysopterus clearly has one as a juvenile, with remnants possible into adulthood on the Fijian fish. The similar (Clarkii X Frenatus) from the Philippines also shows a lack of a tail stripe, so I see no reason for that to not happen here as the fish grows.
Whether the midstripe stays, and to what extent, remains to be seen. Tomatoes seem to reduce but not eliminate midstripes in their hybrids, and at times they can even leave all three stripes (e.g.. Premnas biaculeatus X A. frenatus, also from the Philippines). I’m inclined to think the midstripe will stay into adulthood, given what we see from the two Clarkii X Frenatus specimens I shared from Barnett’s photo library.
The clearer images that this fish absolutely isn’t a juvenile Premnas biaculeatus; note the dorsal flag still present on this juvenile; Premnas don’t have that. That is a feature that likely can only have come from A. chrysopterus; while I don’t have images of tiny juvenile A. barberi,
<Will attach my best here Matt>
my work with Ephippium and the images for Frenatus juveniles pretty clearly show that there is not a white margin on the soft dorsal even at their very youngest (when they are “most striped”).
Given all these realities, this fish MUST have A. chrysopterus in it; they’re no other candidate source for that trait. While the orange-red coloration could have been from diet or some other external factor, the lack of a caudal “flag” on this juvenile is a glaring omission that steers me away from this being simply an aberrant A. chrysopterus. The lack of this defining juvenile characteristic could easily be explained by Barberi’s influence, and if we take that in combination with the red influence, I see no other option for the parentage of this really unique fish. It must be A. (chrysopterus “Fiji” X barberi “Fiji”).
Unless of course there’s some fifth new never before seen species in Fiji
<Cheers, BobF>

Re: Collected this the other day. Walt, Bruce: Premnas in FJ?     12/12/14
Bruce, mind sending that video along to me (I only received the “typical chrysopterus” one). Would be curious to see this other fish you’re writing about!
<Don't think Bruce will mind if I send it here. BobF>

Re: Collected this the other day. Walt, Bruce: Premnas in FJ?     /Matt     12/12/14
Bruce sent it last night and I pass along some ideas on what it is. Here's a synopsis!
<Ah good>
Bruce is right, it IS very similar to this fish found by Cameron. The location Bruce gave was the Solomons; I can eliminate it as being a pure Premnas as an ID due to the Dorsal Flag (not to mention the wide stripes, and the fact that Premnas from that region as babies shouldn’t be dark and if they were, they'd have dark fins, not dark bodies).
It does appear to be a hybrid fish as well, given the soft dorsal flag but lack of a caudal flag. The patterning is near identical to Cameron's fish (which I'm going to dub the "Red Bee" ;) ). I would have considered this fish to be a pure baby Clarkii, but again, the lack of the juvenile caudal flag and the dark coloration overall would steer me away from that idea, especially since the melanistic forms of Clarkii are not said to reside in E. quadricolor (where this baby is)
I also noticed that Bruce's fish appears to have black ventral/pelvic fins.
Melanopus is the tomato-complex species in the region, and melanopus has black ventral fins. Compare to Cameron's fish, which I am now firmly confident can only be Chrysopterus X Barberi; both those fish have light ventrals (yellow or red respectively), so Cameron's fish has light ventrals as well. Bruce's has black ventrals. Both Chrysopterus and Melanopus have black ventrals, as do melanistic clarkii, in the Solomons. If I look at this fish my guess is that it is a Melanopus X Clarkii/Chrysopterus. Had the fish been collected and grown up, we might see some trait from Clarkii or Chrysopterus come through that would make an ID easier. But, given the similarities between Cameron's juvenile Chrysopterus "Fiji" X Barberi and the earlier Philippines-sourced Frenatus X Clarkii, it's difficult to pin down any particularly clarkii trait in that fish that doesn't more or less look the same as a chrysopterus trait in Cameron's fish. Which means there's probably no way to tell which clarkii-complex fish parented Bruce's Solomon Island's baby. I welcome ideas; the closest I've come is to note that the ventral fin is still orange, but both clarkii and chrysopterus as juveniles there should have light fins, so the lack of a black anal fin sadly would not point us towards clarkii and away from chrysopterus. Had the
fish grown up and had fully black undercarriage, or more importantly developed a white tail (both Melanopus and Chrysopterus in Solomons have white tails), I would have leaned strongly towards chrysopterus vs. clarkii.
<Thank you for summing up Matt. B>
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