• Strategy

Mucus coat protects against stings: clownfish


Clownfish in anemone / Nemo's great.. / LicenseCC-by-nc-sa - Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike

The skin of clownfish is protected from sea anemone stings by a coating of mucus.

"The mystery behind the clownfish and sea anemone relationship is how the clownfish avoids being stung and killed by its host anemone. Of the numerous theories that have been presented over the years to explain this relationship, the focus is now on a layer of mucus that coats the clownfish. 'The fish are not immune to being stung,' said [Daphne] Fautin. 'But their mucus coat protects them. The debate is the source of the mucus.' One theory holds that the fish produce the mucus themselves and that it contains chemicals that prevent the anemone nematocysts from stinging as they do other fish in the sea. The other theory is that the clownfish rub themselves against the anemone tentacles in elaborate dances, smearing anemone mucus over themselves. This coating tricks the anemone into confusing the fish for itself. 'There is evidence for both,' said Fautin. 'And since there is a wide variety of anemone hosts, and 28 species of fish, I am convinced these views present two ends of a spectrum, and a combination is probably true for many.'" (Roach 2003)
About the inspiring organism
Med_21884162_df3f6442df_o Amphiprion
Common name: Clownfish

Learn more at EOL.org
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

IUCN Red List Status: Unknown

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Protective clothing or body coatings for use in cleaning up toxic spills or sites, chemical signal inhibitor to treat noxious weed or marine infestations, allergen inhibitor, anesthetic.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Remediation, land management, medical

Division of Invertebrate Biology
Daphne Fautin
University of Kansas Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center
John Roach. 2003. No Nemo: Anemones, Not Parents, Protect Clownfish. National Geographic News [Internet], Accessed August 27, 2007.
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Fautin, D. G. 1991. The anemonefish symbiosis: What is known and what is not. Symbiosis. 10(1): 23-46.
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