NPR logo Need A Laugh? Clownfish!

National Geographic

Need A Laugh? Clownfish!

Actually, they're not very funny. Not at all funny, really. But they are pretty — and really weird: Did you know that clownfish change sexuality?? An article in the January National Geographic magazine gives a close-up view of the little orange guys immortalized by Nemo. And David Doubilet — who I'm convinced is half-photographer, half-fish — is the man behind the underwater camera.

Doubilet has been photographing underwater since age 12. So, with 50 years of practice, one might say he has perfected the art of bringing far-flung, deep-sea environments to the page. The photos in this series illustrate the symbiotic relationship between clownfish and their host anemones. The fish are impervious to the anemones' stinging tentacles, which in turn are fertilized by fish feces.

And they are odd little creatures. There's no explaining the slimy membrane that protects them from stings. And among the occupants of each anemone are only two sexually dominant fish. If the dominant female (always the larger of the two) dies, then the dominant male becomes a female. Weird. The strange science is almost secondary, though, in light of these brilliant pictures.

You can learn more on ngm.com. And you should definitely stop by Doubilet's Web site.

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