The colorful pattern of the Harlequin or Clown shrimp makes this beautiful crustacean quite popular. Its white or cream colored body is covered with distinctive red and purple spots. It has ten legs; the first pair are modified large, flattened claws (chelipeds). The eyes are located on stalks. The first pair of antennae on the head resemble a flattened leaf that sense the smell of nearby prey.
The ten species of swallowtail angelfish stand out among the marine angelfish family. Instead of staying close to the reef, and feeding on coral polyps and other stationary organisms, swallowtails consume plankton in the water column. While the sexes of other angelfishes are colored alike, male and female swallowtails look very different from each other. Only described to science in 1970, this species occurs off Japan and Australia, and far out into the Central Pacific, but is absent from the Indo-Pacific. Only the male has stripes.
Also known as the Starck’s demoiselle, the Starki damsel, is found in the northern and southern parts of the West Pacific. These brightly colored reef dwellers are commonly kept in aquariums and are extremely hardy fish. Like other members of the family Pomacentridae, they can be very territorial, despite their small size. They can be seen fiercely defending a crevice, or hiding quietly under a coral or clam.
The Carpet anemone is named for its large size which resembles a carpet. The short tentacles have the appearance of the “pile” of a carpet, and have powerful stinging nematocysts. Many Carpet anemones serve as symbiotic hosts to clownfish who can hide within the anemone without being stung. Some Carpet anemones can grow to more than three feet in diameter.
The White-capped clownfish is named for the white color mark on its forehead. The name “leucokranos” is derived from the Greek word meaning “white capped” or “white helmet”. It was discovered in 1972 in Mandang, New Guinea. As is the case in our Solomon Islands exhibit, the White capped clownfish is often associated with the Carpet anemone, Stichodactyla sp., and rarely strays far from the protection of its stinging tentacles. A thick mucous coating on its skin keeps the clownfish from being stung.
The Magnificent foxface is often considered the most attractive member of the Rabbitfish family. They are herbivorous in nature and can be seen grazing on algae throughout the day. Venomous dorsal spines and the ability to change color rapidly, help defend this coral reef dweller from predators.
Also known as the Elegant tang, or Indian orangespine unicornfish, the Blond naso is a member of the surgeonfish family. Two bright orange spines can be seen extending from the base of the tail. These spines are said to be “as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel”, hence the name surgeonfish. This species was once thought to be a different color variety of the Lipstick tang, Naso lituratus, but is now considered its own species. The Blond naso is primarily a herbivore and can be found in coral reefs throughout the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
Named for their appearance, which can resemble a baseball glove, the Leather coral, or Toadstool coral is found in various shades of brown, green, or yellow with white or gold polyps. It can be difficult to identify leather corals because many of them are similar in appearance. As they grow older, they develop a folded appearance. Like other soft corals, Leather corals incorporate tiny, single celled algae, known as zooxanthellae in their tissues.
Tridacna gigas is the largest of the giant clam species, reaching more than 59 inches across in length and weighing more than 550 pounds. It is found on coral reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific, but may have become extinct in large parts of its former range. The adductor muscle of these clams is considered a delicacy in some areas, which has led to its overexploitation. Giant clams filter in microscopic plants and animals known as phytoplankton and zooplankton. Single celled phytoplankton, known as zooxanthellae, are photosynthetic and grow within the tissues of the clam providing it with nutrients and oxygen. For this reason, Giant clams are dependent upon light for survival.