Expedition finds Nemo can travel hundreds of kilometres to connect populations

Juveniles of the Omani clownfish,   Amphiprion omanensis ,  can travel up to 400 km's. Image ©Tane Sinclair-Taylor

Juveniles of the Omani clownfish, Amphiprion omanensiscan travel up to 400 km's. Image ©Tane Sinclair-Taylor

You all know the plot: a man’s wife is brutally murdered and his son is left physically disabled by the attack. In a twisted turn of events, his son is kidnapped and he has to chase the kidnapper hundreds of miles with the help of a mentally disabled woman. In the end of course, Nemo escapes and they all magically find their way home.

The truth is certainly not as uplifting. As parents, most fish couldn’t care less about what happens to their kids. Once they hatch, baby fish are essentially on their own. And when they reach the edge of the reef, they must decide: “Should I stay… or should I go?” 

Our research, led by Dr Stephen Simpson from the University of Exeter, is about finding out how far baby fish can swim, and where they end up. We use genetics, the DNA of individual fish, to pair up babies with their parents.

The absolute best swimmer is the Arabian clownfish. These little dudes swim up to 400km just to find a new home. Knowing where fish are going to end up allows us to make sure there will be a home waiting for them when they arrive. And knowing how far they can swim, helps us to understand how they’re going to cope as reefs come and go. The further you can swim, the better you can cope.

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View the press release here.