Finding Nemo’s personality

By Rebecca Baker 23 September 2014
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The anemone fish, one of the most popular aquarium fishes, is to be subjected to psychological analysis

As humans, we understand differences among personality traits of other people, and within moments we can decipher that ‘Bob’ is social, ‘Suzanne’ is bold and ‘Craig’ is aggressive. But do animals, such as fish, have the same kind of personality traits?

Dr Marian Wong, of the University of Wollongong, aims to find out. Her project sponsored by the AG Society  is taking a deeper look at the personalities of wide-band anemone fish (Amphiprion latezonatus) and their influence on breeding behaviour.

“Relatively little is known about why animal personalities vary so considerably and what consequences individual personalities have on important life-history traits, like reproductive success,” she says.

Marian and her team will focus on an endemic Australian species of anemone fish found in the Solitary Islands Marine Park, stretching north from Coffs Harbour, NSW.

The team will locate social groups living within host sea anemones and set up cameras to monitor behaviour. Personality traits will be counted, including boldness, activity, sociability, exploration and aggression.

“These fish only occur on a few scattered islands off the south-eastern coast of Australia and currently very little is known about their behaviour and biology in general,” Marian says.

“This project will provide a better understanding of these aspects and help in the management and conservation of this species in the future.”