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Amphiprion ocellaris

The fish that likes to clown around!

Also Known As:

Anemonefish, Common Clownfish, Ocellaris Clownfish, False Percula Clownfish, Clown Anemonefish, "Nemo", Western Clownfish


     Domain Eukarya

     Kingdom Animalia

     Phylum Chordata

     Class Actinopterygii

     Order Perciformes

     Family Pomacentridae

     Genus Amphiprion

     Species Amphiprion


An Amphiprion ocellaris specie
Picture taken by Betsy Berends

     Amphiprion ocellaris is in the domain eukarya because it is eukaryotic, meaning its cells contain membrane-bound organelles.  The species' kingdom is animalia because it is a multicellular, heterotrophic, motile species, whose cells lack cell walls.  The clownfish is in the phylum chordata because the species has tissues, a coelom, and did have a notochord during its early development.  Also, it possesses a dorsal, tubular nerve chord, and postanal tail, which are two key characteristics of chordates.  The species is also bilaterally symmetrical, which all chordates are.  The class is actinopterygii because Amphiprion ocellaris is a ray-finned, spiny fish.  Amphiprion ocellaris is in the order perciformes because this species is a perch-like fish.  Its family is Pomacentridae because it is a damselfish that dwells in coral and uses chemicals to locate its host.  All anemonefish belong to the genus Amphiprion.  This particular ordering in the genus Amphiprion occurred in 1801, when two men, Bloch and Schneider, grouped all anemonefish together.  These particular fish were grouped together because they are all protandrous hermaphrodites, meaning they are all born males with dormant female reproductive organs.  Over time, some males may change into females in order to reproduce more fish.  (See also Reproduction).  This particular species is given the scientific name of Amphiprion ocellaris.  This genus name is specific to the clownfish.  In Latin, ocellaris means "a (little) eye."  Clownfish do not actually have little eyes, but rather eyes with grayish-orange irises that make their eyes appear larger than they truly are.  This particular feature, however, separates them from all other anemonefish.  (See also Fun Facts).  Thus, the name Amphiprion ocellaris means the opposite of what is true about the clownfish.


A phylogenetic tree for Amphiprion ocellaris.
A hypothesized phylogenetic tree for Amphiprion ocellaris.


Two clownfish swimming in an aquarium
Picture taken by Elizabeth Guck

            There is strong evidence that anemonefish are monophyletic.  The clownfish genera,  Amphiprion, is closely related to the genera Premnas, which consists of other pomacentrid fish.  Amphiprion ocellaris is the most basal of all the Amphiprion species, while Premnas are the most ancestral anemonefish species known, which means that Amphiprion species are derived from Premnas species.  Since A. ocellaris is specialized to one or two host anemone species, while other anemonefish of the same genus are not, it can be concluded that host generalization came after the clownfish.  Thus, the clownfish is the more ancient than the other anemonefish.  Also, the clownfish is related to the other bony fish, particularly the ray-finned fish, which are part of the class Osteichthyes.  This class is closely associated with the class Chondrichthyes, which are the cartilage fish, such as the sharks and rays.  Therefore, in conclusion, Amphiprion ocellaris is the most basal species in the genus Amphiprion, which is closely related to the genera Premnas and the class Chondrichthyes.  For more information about what separates Amphiprion ocellaris from other Amphiprion species, see Fun Facts.

Send comments about this page to Betsy Berends, berends.bets@students.uwlax.edu,
a student at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse

This page was last updated on April 23, 2007

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