Some clownfish are social and frisky, but others live placid and uneventful lives. To find out why, researchers set out cameras to record clownfish behaviors near North Solitary and Lord Howe islands along Australia’s east coast. The team watched two closely related species: Amphiprion mccullochi, which inhabits sheltered lagoons, and A. latezonatus, which faces gnarly waves along an exposed reef. The results were surprising: Despite living in the much more sedate setting, the lagoon dwellers were braver and more aggressive toward other fish, whereas the reef fish didn’t seem to have any obvious personality traits. Harsher conditions force the reef fish to adapt to their surroundings, and the constant adaptations prevent distinct personalities from emerging, researchers report this month in Coral Reefs. Understanding the ranges of fish behavior across different types of clownfish will help conservationists protect vulnerable species with poorly adapted personality traits as environmental changes threaten their habitat.
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