Orange Clownfish – Species Spotlight

Orange clownfish

Orange Clownfish: Amphiprion percula

The orange clownfish is a popular fish in the pet industry and they have become further well known after the Finding Nemo movie (Who is looking forward to Finding Dory later this year!? 😀 ), although Nemo and Marlin are Amphiprion ocellaris (False percula clownfish). Amphiprion percula and Amphiprion ocellaris are often confused as they are so similar (and I do not claim to be an expert on clownfish), but can be identified by the number of spines in the first dorsal fin, with A. percular having  10 and A. ocellaris having 11.

These fish are within a group of fishes termed anemonefish. This is due to their mutualistic (both organisms benefit) relationships with anemones. The anemones protect the fish by detering/consuming predators with their nematocysts/stings, whilst the fish protect the anemones mostly from parasites. The anemones may also get some nutrition from the clownfish excrement, as the clownfish may potentially consume dead matter from the anemone.

Research suggests that they can swim about the anemone without getting stung due to a mucus secreted from the fish. A. percula has also been found to be toxin resistant to some anemone toxins, yet not all anemonefish seem to posses this quality (Mebs, 1994).

The Orange clownfish is not currently listed as endangered, although some populations may be affected by fish being removed from the wild to become pets or add to pet industry breeding stocks.

Mebs, D 1994, “Anemonefish symbiosis: vulnerability and resistance to of fish to the toxin of the sea anemone”, Toxicon, Vol. 32, No. 9, pp. 1059-1068.

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Veiled Chameleon – Species Spotlight

Veiled Chameleon: Chamaeleo calyptratus

Veiled Chameleon

Found naturally across Yemen and Saudi Arabia, veiled chameleons are mostly green (like the one above) or brown, with a casque on their heads. They can also display a variety of other colours dependent on the situation, typically when frightened or excited. Their eyes are also very interesting, as they can swivel independently.

These chameleons typically consume insects, however they may also consume some foliage. It is thought that they may eat the leaves more for their water content, than for nutrition.

The veiled chameleon is not considered to be threatened and is considered a pest in some of its non-natural distribution: Veiled chameleons are considered invasive pests in Hawaii. They have also been reported in Florida, likely due to released/escaped pets. The veiled chameleons in Florida are considered exotic, but have not yet been listed as invasive (haven’t been found to cause significant damage) to my knowledge.

About Phylogeny

Phylogeny is about the evolutionary relationships (the relatedness) of organisms. It shows us where in history organisms became different from one another, and which species they are more closely related to. Phylogeny is reflected in the taxonomy and binomial names (scientific names) of organisms.

Phylogeny can be useful in conservation as some more-related organisms may react in a similar way to certain threats. What has worked to conserve one organism may also help conserve another in a similar manner.

Binomial names are generated from the genus name and the species name. These names are typically written in italics, with a capital only at the beginning of the genus name.
Example: Tiliqua rugosa (Bobtail lizard)

There are different levels of taxonomic classification, with each becoming more specific from kingdom until species:

Kindom

Phylum

Class

Order

Family

Genus

Species

*In some cases these levels may also have sub-levels, such as a sub-phylum*

Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem services are benefits (typically in relation to people) that stem from ecosystems. Thus, ecosystem services are often highlighted when some people ask: why is conservation important? (particularly in terms of conserving ecosystems)

These services are easily explained across 4 categories:

Regulation Services

Ecosystem process regulate many things which we benefit from.
Some examples:

  • Carbon storage and cycling (which also indirectly aids the regulation climate)
  • Decontamination of natural water systems
  • Regulation of pests

Provisioning Services

Products that are created within ecosystems, that can be harvested/used by humans.
Some examples:

  • Food, including seafood
  • Medicine
  • Wood
  • Energy (energy created from biomass is the most obvious example)
  • Shells, feathers and other tokens used for fashion, decoration or worship

Cultural Services

Non-material benefits.
Some examples:

  • Recreational benefits (eg. hiking in a beautiful forest)
  • Spiritual benefits and historical benefits (eg. heritage and beliefs that involve nature)
  • Cultural benefits (eg. the use of nature in artworks, books and other media)
  • Educational benefits (eg. scientific discovery, and inspiration to young learners)

Supporting Services

Processes that are needed to allow for ecosystems to provide other services.
Some examples:

  • Soil formation and maintenance
  • Nutrient cycling

Keystone Species

What is a Keystone species?

A keystone species is a species that has a strong impact on its environment or ecosystem. This impact is typically disproportionate to its abundance.

Examples

A common example is a predator that controls a herbivore, whose population growth would upset the balance of an ecosystem by consuming too much vegetation, or otherwise cause damage, such as erosion.

Another example of a keystone species are some Banksia species that are primary sources of nectar for some native Australian bird species.

Producers, Consumers, Decomposers and Detritivores

What is the Purpose of these Categories?

These categories reflect the role an organism may play in an ecosystem, based on the way they gain food which is converted to energy.

Producers

Producers are organisms that produce their own food/energy. These organisms tend to be either phototrophs that use photosynthesis or chemotrophs that use chemosynthesis to create energy from other sources, such as light or chemicals. Most plants are producers.

Consumers

Consumers need to consume other organisms to gain energy. This includes herbivores (that consume plants), omnivores (that have a mixed diet) and carnivores (that consume other animals). Most animals are consumers.

Decomposers and Detritivores

Decomposers and detritivores are organisms that break down deceased/decaying organic matter. They are aid in returning nutrients to the soil. The two terms only differ by the method of breakdown, with detritivores requiring internal digestion and decomposers using biochemical reactions with no need for ingestion. A variety of bacteria and a variety of fungi are decomposers. A number of invertebrates, including earthworms are an example of detritivores.

Ecosystems

An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in a particular space that interact with each other and their abiotic environment.

Ecosystems include a selection of different organisms that have different roles in that ecosystem. At a basic level this will typically include producers, consumers and decomposers. The producers of that ecosystem will also need a way of producing energy (eg. plants use the sun for photosynthesis). On a more complex level, particular organisms may be necessary to maintain the qualities of the soil in the area, to distribute the seeds of plants, and to fill other niches.