Clownfish (Amphiprior percula)

The more I learn about Queerness in ecology, the happier it makes me. Somehow knowing that humans aren’t the only sexually and gender diverse species on this planet, just gives me hope. Clownfish, for example, who change sex several times during their lifetime. Because yes everyone, Nemo was totally trans.

clownfish.jpg

Actually up to a quarter of tropical reef fish species are sequentially hermaphroditic, meaning they change sex either once, or several times during their lifetime. Orange Clownfish, these famous little fish living among the poisonous tentacles of sea anemones can change twice – from asexual juveniles to male and from male to female.

For them, size confers dominance. Bigger is better. And as females are bigger than males, they’re also more dominant. A single female and male form a cozy monogamous straight relationship (don’t worry, it won’t last forever) and live together in their poisonous anemone along with some differently sized asexual juveniles who float in on the current.

If the female dies or leaves (or like in the movie, gets eaten by a big barracuda), the male starts to buff up, put on weight and changes sex to female. That same fish then becomes the new female of the anemone and one of the juveniles sexually matures and becomes a male to take her place. And back we go to cozy monogamous straightness…

So, you know, in the realistic version of the movie, Nemo’s mom got eaten, Nemo’s dad became his new mom and agender Nemo transitioned to male and married her. Really, I can’t imagine why they changed it…

For more Queer Ecology, check out Otter’s first novel Margins and Murmurations or join the mailing list to get her zine for free!

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